A. Lazor Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Through the worst of times and the best of times, ANNIE LAZOR qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 2020.

Annie Lazor won the 200-meter breaststroke, beating her friend and teammate Lilly King, in one of the most dramatic races of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming.

A. Lazor Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

When the race was over, Lazor embraced King in the pool and declared, “We did it.”

Then Lazor climbed up on the lane line, slapped the water, and yelled while King waved his arm to rally the audience.

The 26-year-old breaststroker, who had gone from the worst day of her life to the best in a matter of weeks, moved the audience to tears with her uninhibited outpouring of passion.

How Annie Lazor qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in 2020.

Initiation into Retirement

As a matter of fact, Lazor stopped swimming five years ago. The Auburn University grad placed seventh in the 200 breaststroke at the 2016 Olympic trials but did not make it to the finals of the 100 breaststroke.

It was devastating news for the young swimmer, who had shown great promise by placing 15th in the 200 breaststroke at the 2012 Olympic trials and who had been hailed as “a big-time pickup for Auburn, capable of immediately scoring at SECs, as well as qualifying for NCAAs” after transferring from Ohio State at the end of her freshman year.

Lazor gave up swimming to become a men’s swimming and beach volleyball operations intern at the University of California, Berkeley.

‘I was pretty frustrated and thought I needed that time [away from the sport],’ she explained. “I didn’t anticipate I’d be returning, so I didn’t plan a certain return date.”

Lazor’s duties at Cal included filming the men’s swim team in action. Several Cal swimmers, including backstroker Ryan Murphy, qualified for the U.S. Olympic team.

According to Murphy, “she had a significant impact on our programme throughout her time at Cal in 2016 and 2017.” Every Wednesday she would come down with her iPad and video our practise. She puts in a lot of effort.

Perhaps after observing the men’s training, Lazor realised how much she missed playing.

She explained that she had delayed her return because she did not want to look back in five or 10 years and regret not having done so. To paraphrase: “I can sit at a desk for the rest of my life, but I can’t swim forever.”

Transfer to Indiana

When Lazor decided to take up swimming again, she wasted no time in trying out the Indiana University programme, where 2016 Olympic medalists Lilly King and Cody Miller trained. The two were a perfect match. Ray Looze, the coach, needed King’s blessing before proceeding.

According to Lazor, Lilly’s “kind of competitor that [Lilly] is speaks world about the type of competitor that [Lilly] is” by accepting a rival into her training environment.

When Lazor first settled in Bloomington, Indiana, he had no plans to compete in the Olympics. She was plagued by doubt and eager to test her own limits.

She competed in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events at the 2019 Pan American Games and won both. There was a sudden realisation that competing in the Tokyo Olympics was possible. Lazor had an advantage over her rivals that few others did since she had experienced life without swimming.

In contrast to veteran swimmers, “you don’t have this bullseye on your back,” Looze reassured her.

When the year 2020 rolled along, Lazor was already in the air. In March of that year, at a TYR Pro Swim Series competition, she swam the fastest 200-meter breaststroke time in the world for the following year, 2020.

Consequently, Tokyo will not host the Olympics in 2020. Lazor felt cheated at first, but then she realised that in 2021, she may swim even faster than she did this year.

A favourite to reach the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, Lazor placed third in the 100 breaststroke and second in the 200 breaststroke at the TYR Pro Swim Series meet in early April 2021. He finished slightly behind King.

The Death of My Father

Later that same day, Sunday, April 25, 2021, Lazor’s father, David, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61. He was a huge advocate for his daughter’s Olympic aspirations.

David’s obituary noted, “He lavished affection on his daughter Annie and supported her enormous goals.” He accompanied her to several swim events, and whether she won or lost, he was there to cheer her on and remind her that she is more than just an athlete.

Lazor’s Instagram is filled with adorable throwback photos of her and her dad, many of which feature her dad’s Winnie the Pooh tie.

Lazor and her Brazilian partner Vini Lanza, who both attended and graduated from Indiana University, returned to Lazor’s home state of Michigan right away. A day earlier, he had just been selected to swim for Brazil at the Olympic Games.

After promising Lazor’s mother that she would do whatever in her power to help her daughter make the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, King travelled nearly six hours to Michigan to be with Lazor and her family.

Lazor felt like she “had to choose between grief and swimming every day for the first three weeks.” King played a crucial role in Lazor’s survival, both financially and otherwise.

“[Lilly] has been there for me in ways that I can’t even begin to articulate, words fall short to be very honest with you,” Lazor remarked. “She’s like a sister to me,” I told her.

Trials for the United States Olympic Team, 2021

Lazor competed in her first competition since her father’s death, the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, in the middle of June. There was a lot of anxiety about re-entering the social scene for her. However, she was met with wide arms by the swimming world.

Lazor recalled how Ryan Murphy had approached him with a broad grin and a bear hug. I knew he was thinking of me even though he didn’t speak a word about it.

Lazor missed qualifying in the 100 breaststroke on the third night of trials, placing third. King was elated to have made the Olympic squad for a second time, but she was also devastated that Lazor had not. Yet.

Though Lazor wasn’t exactly overjoyed about the situation. She commented, “I just got beaten by the two fastest times in the world, that’s all that happened” after a wonderful race.

Neither [Lilly] nor I wavered in our belief in our abilities heading into the 200,” Lazor added. It’s pretty unbelievable that one of the world’s most assured swimmers would tell you that.

Gaining Selection to the U.S. Olympic Team

King, who had recorded the quickest time in the semifinals of the 200-meter breaststroke, glanced towards Lazor in the opposite lane as the ladies lined up behind the blocks for the finals.

Lazor remarked, “She told me she loved me and let’s go do this, and that was all I needed to hear.”

King pushed the pace in the beginning of the 200. However, Lazor had no cause for concern. King routinely makes a grand exit. Lazor cranked it up a notch at the 100, knowing that if she just kept her head down and ran her race, she would qualify for the Olympics. With a timing of 2:21.07, she was the first to cross the finish line, ranking third fastest in the world thus far in 2014. (a time that would have won the Olympic silver medal in Rio).

Lazor wasn’t simply revelling in her own success when she climbed onto the lane line and splashed the water.

It took a lot of people for me to even be sitting here right now, so I wanted to make sure that everyone who was a part of it was receiving the same amount of celebration that I had, she stated at the news conference after the race. Just wanted to make sure they got the same amount of credit I was giving them.

When asked about her feelings after the race, King looked more pleased for her partner who came in second than for herself (0.68 seconds behind Lazor).

For the two of us, it was simply a really amazing moment,” King remarked. Even in the past three or four years, we’ve been through hell and back as a couple.

To have someone who has been there every day with you, practising and fighting, and knowing that everything we’ve done together has paid off for her is incredibly rewarding.

Lazor has embraced her role as an older rookie on the team at the pre-Games training camp in Hawaii.

According to Tokyo’s women’s head coach Greg Meehan, “every day that she comes in here, she is focused, she is working hard, but she is also just genuinely loving this experience.” Whether in the dining hall or at the pool, she has raised the bar for Team USA. She being present is a huge boon for us.

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