From NC to Tokyo: A 16-year-old swimmer from Cary has made the U.S. Olympic team

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Claire Curzan, a 16-year-old swimmer from Cary, fulfilled a dream and made the U.S. Olympic team Monday night.

Curzan finished second in the 100 butterfly at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Neb., only four months after she won basically the same event at the N.C. high school state championships while representing Cardinal Gibbons High.

The event was telecast live nationally by NBC. Torri Huske, another teenager, won the event and also qualified for the Olympics.

Curzan has been a national-level age group swimmer for years, known for her versatility and sprinting capability. But she has exploded onto the national swimming scene recently as her times in the 100 butterfly have continued to drop. She will be one of the youngest U.S. Olympians at the Summer Games, which are scheduled to begin July 23 in Tokyo, and will have a chance at a medal there.

The second of Mark and Tracy Curzan’s three children, Claire Curzan trains at Triangle Aquatic Club in Cary. In April, she posted a 56.20 at a meet at her home pool there swimming for the TAC Titans — a time that echoed around the swimming world. With that time Curzan became the second-fastest American swimmer ever in the 100 fly, behind only the retired Dana Vollmer.

However, fellow hotshot American teenager Huske eclipsed everyone in Sunday’s preliminaries in the even at Olympic Trials, swimming 55.78 to set a new U.S. record in the event after Vollmer’s previous mark had stood for nine years. Huske then beat her own time in the final with a time of 55.66, while Curzan was second at 56.43, just out-touching a couple of competitors at the wall.

At 16, Curzan was at least 18 months younger than everyone else in the final 8. While she wasn’t “officially” placed on the U.S. team Monday night due to some complicated USA Swimming rules, she will be toward the end of the meet when all second-place individual finishers are added.

Claire Curzan, pictured in 2019 at age 14, has won multiple individual events at the N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships while competing for Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons. At 16, she will be one of the youngest Olympians competing for the USA in Tokyo in July.
Claire Curzan, pictured in 2019 at age 14, has won multiple individual events at the N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships while competing for Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons. At 16, she will be one of the youngest Olympians competing for the USA in Tokyo in July.

By the time the Olympics begin in July, Curzan will be 17. She will have her 17th birthday on June 30th, which, as she pointed out in an interview with NBC Sports, is the same day legendary swimmer Michael Phelps was born (albeit in 1985).

The 100 butterfly event is traditionally one where teenagers can do well. Four of the top five U.S. swimmers in 2021 in the 100 fly were teenagers entering the Olympic Trials.

Curzan will have another opportunity to qualify for a second event at the Olympics later in the Trials, as the Cardinal Gibbons star also plans to compete in the 50 and 100 freestyle events and will be seeded highly in both.

Other swimming hopefuls from North Carolina also have a shot at making the Olympic team during this 8-day meet, including freestyle specialist Michael Chadwick of Charlotte, N.C. State backstroker Katharine Berkoff and backstroker Kathleen Baker, who’s originally from Winston-Salem and is already a previous Olympian and an American record holder.

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