Swimmer Blake Worsley took a few laps in the Old Town Hot Springs pool Wednesday afternoon for old times' sake. Worsley, who grew up in Steamboat Springs competing and training in the outdoor pool, will be representing Canada at this summer's Olympic Games in London.
Swimmer Blake Worsley returns to Steamboat for Olympic homecoming
Steamboat Springs Blake Worsley sat inside Old Town Hot Springs on Wednesday and was astounded by the lack of snow and the warm weather. Worsley, maybe more than most, knows what long Steamboat Springs winters mean.
No, he didn’t spend his winters on the ski slopes chasing that perfect line. Instead, Worsley could be found in the pool, where he spent countless hours chasing an improbable dream.
“I remember it was cold and lonely,” Worsley, 24, said as he reflected Wednesday on growing up here and swimming in the lap pool at Old Town Hot Springs. “The coldest I ever swam in was negative 15” degrees.
Wednesday’s homecoming was significant for the 2005 Steamboat Springs graduate. He is a newly minted Canadian Olympic Swim Team member. On March 27, he swam the 200-meter freestyle in 1 minute, 49.06 seconds. His first-place finish in the Canadian Olympic Trials that day added his name to the long list of Steamboat Olympians.
“Last week was the most emotional week of my life,” said Worsley, who has dual citizenship. “I’ve never had so many ups and downs. One minute you’re happy you’re making the team. The next minute you’re down because your training partner and teammate didn’t make it.”
Worsley, who is back home for a couple of days before returning to Victoria, British Columbia, always dreamed of making the Olympics. But the odds of a kid from a ski town earning a bid to the Summer Games are long. No matter.
“He is the type of kid that has it in him. He had heart,” said Blake’s mom, Patti, who often served as his swim coach on those cold, lonely mornings. “He never questioned himself. It was just, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’”
The dream started during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Blake recalls watching the 800-meter freestyle relay duel between the U.S. and Australia. He then turned to his mother.
“I told her, ‘Mom, I’m going to do this,’” he said.
Patti said he’s always been ambitious.
“We just encouraged him,” she said.
He went to the University of Denver to swim. His first year there, he was the slowest swimmer on the team. By his senior year, he was named the Pioneers Male Athlete of the Year.
Worsley now will take a few days off before returning for training. He’ll compete in Arizona, Hawaii and California before leaving in early July for Sardinia, Italy. The Canadian Olympic Swim Team will spend three weeks there before heading to London for the Olympics on July 24.
As Worsley swam in the Old Town Hot Springs pool Wednesday, a crowd started to form around Steamboat’s newest Olympian.
It was much warmer out, but that dream that began in subzero temperatures so long ago was finally a reality.
“It’s not been what I expected,” Worsley said. “You always imagine what your journey is going to be like. There is an ideal path you want to go down and you plan to go down that. I think training at a high level and having that goal of the Olympic Games — your path is going to change.
“But that was always one of the beauties of swimming out here by myself,” he continued. “If you’re swimming by yourself, there is no one to tell you you can’t do it.”