ROANOKE, Va. – Virginia Gator’s Olivia Bray’s talent in the pool is one of a kind.
The first time I saw her swim she was in the 8 and under program and she just flowed through the water," head coach Doug Fonder said. “That’s a very God-given natural thing, the ability to flow.”
The 18-year-old has come a long way since her swim coach Doug Fonder saw her swim for the first time.
"You never know at age 8, 10, 12 if they have the commitment to do it," he said.
But Bray had just that. At 14, she was swimming in the 2016 Olympic Trials. Then, a few months ago, she signed her letter of intent to swim for the Texas Longhorns in the fall.
“As soon as I went on campus, instantly I fell in love with it,” Bray said. “It was awesome. It’s just that feeling you get when you feel like you’re at home.”
She then decided to forgo her final semester in high school, graduate early, and train for her next big event- the 2020 Olympic Trials.
“It was December of 2018 when I made the first two trial cuts for this coming up Olympic Trials,” she said. “It was just pure joy because all the hard work, it pays off. It was just great.”
In February, bray was seeded in the top ten in the nation in the 100-meter butterfly. The top two finishers go to Tokyo.
“I do, oh gosh, eight practices a week, probably five to seven thousand yards a practice, with three dry land sessions.”
But what no one saw coming over a month ago was the 2020 Olympics being postponed due to the global pandemic of COVID-19.
“Then everything started getting cancelled. School’s cancelled, my swim club is closed, everything is shut down then they’re like, oh yeah, Olympics are postponed,” Bray said via FaceTime after hearing the news.
“You added a whole other year. It was nerve wracking to watch that unravel. But it’s just another year to train and get better and get focused. I’m glad they did this because the corona virus, making sure everyone is safe, they’re not risking anyone’s health or the public’s health.”
So Bray went from eight practices a day, to none. And since she graduated early, no school. An adjustment to regular life that has happened earlier than expected.
“Yeah, it’s scary and terrifying because I’ve been swimming for 10 plus years, so you’re telling me I’m not allowed to swim? Like what does that even mean?” Bray said. “It’s made be get tougher because swimming is your life but you also have a life outside of swimming. You can’t just live around it. You have to have friends and family and other things to enjoy it and make sure you’re happy outside swimming too.”
Bray will start school at Texas in the fall and still plans on competing in the 2021 Olympic Trials.