Olympic dream in swimmer's sights

University of Arizona senior aiming to mine more medals in Beijing


Sifting through her medals and records to establish Lacey Nymeyer's prominence in the world of competitive swimming would be exhausting. Oh, there is the world record that kind of stands out. But that notwithstanding, suffice it to say that the Tucson, Ariz., native may very well be standing on a podium with a medal around her neck during the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, this August.

The daughter of Aaron and Stacey Nymeyer, Lacey is a member of the Tucson University 1st (Student) Ward, Tucson Arizona North Stake. She shared her thoughts and feelings about her life as a competitive swimmer and her Olympic hopes during a Church News telephone interview.

Of the Olympic trials coming up in June, she said, "I have prepared and there's nothing else I can do except go out and race. When it comes down to it, it is just a matter of confidence and faith."

As her mother said by telephone, speaking of the Olympic trials, "Swimming is very fair. You are as good as the clock shows."

The clock has been impressed with Lacey's efforts since she began swimming competitively at about age 9. The pinnacle, so far, came during the 2007 FINA World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, when she joined three USA teammates in setting a world record in the 800-meter freestyle relay.

The bright and cheerful swimmer said, "I've always been comfortable in the water," which is a good thing because she claimed she's not coordinated enough to do sports on land. She grew up in her family home next door to a grandmother who had a pool that provided cool relief in the Arizona desert. When she was 6, her parents put her in a local swimming program. Her competitive enthusiasm revealed itself and she moved up to more serious competition.

She was dominating in the pool at Mountain View High School, winning several state championships as a freestyle sprinter while compiling a 4.0 GPA in the classroom.

Lacey said it was hard to be a high school swimmer. With the intense, year-round training program, her schedule was very different from most of her peers and it affected her social life.

"It was kind of a struggle," she said. "I definitely leaned on my family for support."

She had friends at Church and in seminary, but didn't have much time to spend with them. She felt blessed her school had released-time seminary from which she graduated; early-morning seminary would have conflicted with swim team practice times.

After high school, the choice to stay close to home at the University of Arizona was made easier because of the school's nationally prominent swimming program.

While maintaining excellent grades in the classroom, Lacey has stayed on top of the swimming world at Arizona with national championship and all-America honors.

Back trouble challenged her at the beginning of the 2007-08 season.

"When it first happened, in my senior year, 10 months before the Olympics, I kind of freaked out," she said.

But with the support of her coach and family, she decided to look at the physical ailment as a positive, giving her a different perspective and a different training regimen. She missed the early meets of the season, but was back in winning form in early January competition.

"Swimming is so weird," Lacey said. "You can't even take a week off and not have it affect you."

She compared swimmers to race cars which have to be well tuned, well designed and get the right fuel and maintenance. She acknowledged that Church lifestyle and diet standards have helped her stay well tuned and she guards them vigilantly.

"I have developed a great relationship with my team," Lacey said. "They know where I stand." She added, "It has strengthened my testimony to know I want to live the way I live and do it for me. No one's pushing me where I don't want to go."

She doesn't push others, either. When teammates ask, she shares information on her standards and her views on priorities and life. Sometimes that comes when they accept an invitation to a cookie-baking activity at her apartment on a Saturday night.

The future is bright, Lacey said. She has decided she will swim competitively as long as she feels like she wants to, always comfortable that her academic preparation with a major in physical education gives her other options. She is enthusiastic talking about someday coaching other young swimmers, talking to youth about staying active and being healthy. Also, she looks forward to having her own family.

But for now, she is focused on the best finish possible to her collegiate career leading up to fulfilling her Olympic dream. — Greg Hill

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