With the one-year-out date of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 rapidly approaching (July 24), open water swimmers Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell earned their spots on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team by finishing in the top 10 of the women’s 10-kilometer race at the FINA World Championships on Sunday in Gwangju, South Korea.
This will be Anderson’s third trip to the Olympic Games and she’ll be vying for her second medal after winning silver in London in 2012. For Twichell, it’s the culmination of over eight years of trying to make the Olympic team.
Anderson, 27, comes from a swimming family — her sister Alyssa won an Olympic gold medal in the 4×200 freestyle in London — and got her start in open water swimming while at USC. This was her seventh trip to the world championships, where she was looking for her first medal in the 10K after winning gold in the 5K in both 2013 and 2015. Anderson was sixth in the 10K in 2017.
“I remember in London everything just flew by so quickly,” she told TeamUSA.org. “Even after Rio I was able to take a step back and enjoy the process and enjoy everything that goes into swimming and training and competing.”
Twichell, now 30, became the oldest U.S. man or woman to win an open water swimming title at the world championships when she took the victory in the 5K in 2017. She is now slated to become the oldest U.S. Olympic rookie swimmer since James Green in 1908. Despite winning four titles in the 10K at the national championships, however, a place on the Olympic team has eluded the Duke alum until now.
What’s it mean to represent #TeamUSA at the #TokyoOlympics?
See what @SwimHaley and @atwich616 have to say. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/MfQQCSihi0
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) July 14, 2019
“It would mean everything to qualify for Tokyo 2020,” she said following the national championships. “I’ve been swimming for a really long time and I swim obviously because it’s fun and I love it, and really not until I made my first international team was the Olympics really a goal of mine. Before that I wouldn’t really say it was at the forefront of my mind. I pretty narrowly missed out in 2012 and have had shoulder surgery and injuries and stuff like that so I’ve kind of been through a lot, so it would mean a lot to be able to make 2020.”
Open water swimming has been a part of the men’s and women’s Olympic program since 2008. Anderson’s silver medal remains the only one won by an American to date. It is the only swimming event in which the U.S. has never won a gold medal at the Games.