‘Shooting for 2020’: Ariola sets sights on Olympic trials

Grace Ariola competed in the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials this past summer, competing in the 100 meter backstroke — taking ninth place and ultimately not qualifying past the semi-finals for the Rio Olympics. Ariola did however qualify to compete in Hawaii in the Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

Although Ariola didn’t perform as well as she had hoped in the Trials, she doesn’t plan on giving up. Her plan is to “shoot for 2020” or possibly even the 2024 Olympic Games.

In preparation for the Olympic Trials which  took place in Omaha, Nebraska from June 26 to July 3, Ariola says her amount of practice “didn’t really change.” She practiced six times a week, sometimes twice in one day, averaging around 20 hours per week. Her diet didn’t change much either; she stuck to high-calorie healthy foods that would provide her with energy, but says she didn’t carb-load like the stereotypical Michael Phelps-type Olympic swimmer.

Aside from physically training, Ariola says that mental preparation is a vital element to success; she had to spend time “getting ready to perform in such a high-intensity place.”

Ariola began swimming when she was seven years old at Four Seasons Country Club, moving to swim for the YMCA “Waves” swim team shortly after.

“I have no hand-eye coordination, (swimming) was the only thing I could be good at,” Ariola said.

At one point, the coach took her mom aside and said that she was “pretty good,” and that her mother should “keep her in this.”

Ariola said “I had a lot of people who just believed in me and kept me going,”when asked how she has made it this far.

When Ariola watched the 2008 Olympics, she remembers witnessing “Michael Phelps have that much success, and then realizing that that was what [she] wanted.”

In 2012 she attended the Olympic Trials – but as a spectator, which was a “really neat experience.” 2016 was different, she says that “getting to participate this last year was just so awe-inspiring.”

She describes herself as a “student of the sport,” constantly learning and growing as a swimmer.