CHICAGO – Life-changing news rarely arrives on schedule. Friday, July 8 was marked in Naomy Grand'Pierre's calendar – the day when she would find out if her Olympic dream would be fulfilled. Instead, she got an unexpected phone call from her mother on Tuesday, July 5 with the thrilling news: she had made it.
Grand'Pierre – a sophomore swimmer at the University of Chicago – officially qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She will be the first-ever Olympic female swimming representative for the country of Haiti.
The big moment was a lifetime in the making. Grand'Pierre spent 10 years swimming with the City of Atlanta Dolphins before heading off to college at UChicago. A spot in the Olympics was a childhood dream. She officially began acting on her ambition in November 2015 and commenced serious training to represent her parents' home country of Haiti shortly thereafter. Grand'Pierre logged hours upon hours of laps in the Myers-McLoraine Pool under the watchful eyes of her collegiate coaches on the Hyde Park campus.
The deadline to qualify for the Olympics was fast approaching. Grand'Pierre traveled to compete in Romania in May, then to the Bahamas for the 21st Caribbean Island Swimming Championships (CISC) from June 29 – July 2. The meet served as the Olympic qualifier for the Caribbean Islands region and one of the last qualifying meets in the world for swimming. She competed in three events, starting with the 50-meter butterfly. Grand'Pierre qualified for the finals and finished eighth with a personal-best time of 30.11. In the subsequent 100-meter freestyle, she split it to use the 50-meter freestyle time of 27.72. Her last event was the 50-meter freestyle, and she qualified for finals with a mark of 27.35. In the finals, she placed eighth with a 27.67.
While Grand'Pierre didn't achieve the automatic qualifying cut, FINA officials told her that she still had a chance to be selected as Haiti's female swimming representative under the Universality rule. The answer would be coming on Friday. Then the fateful call arrived early.
"To my surprise, my mom called me on Tuesday to let me know that the decision was made and that FINA had accepted me as the female competitor to swim for Haiti," Grand'Pierre said. "At first, I didn't believe it. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed and relieved. I had been training since March for something that was so uncertain and it was Tuesday, with 32 days left till Rio, that things finally became official.
"Now I am so excited. I am honored to be the first ever female swimmer to represent Haiti and I cannot wait to swim at the Olympic Games. This has been a lifelong dream of mine and it has finally become a reality after so many years of work, so many obstacles and complications."
The opening ceremonies in Brazil are set for August 5. During the intervening month, Grand'Pierre will continue her training at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio until late July. She will then return to her home in Atlanta, Ga. and fly to Rio from there. Haiti's swim team will include one male and one female, with Grand'Pierre scheduled to compete in the 50-meter freestyle on August 13. Haiti will bring a contingent of 11 athletes to compete at the Olympics Games.
Once the Olympic Games conclude, Grand'Pierre will visit Haiti, followed by another stop in Atlanta to see family. She will then wrap up her three months of training in Ohio and resume classes at UChicago in late September.
"I plan on continuing to swim for UChicago and will remain on the Haitian national swim team," Grand'Pierre said. "After graduating, I plan on going pro for Haiti and training to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games as well."
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