Worsley swim schedule
Swims in third heat in Lane 3
Qualifying heats: 3:20 a.m. Sunday
Semifinals: 12:37 p.m. Sunday
Finals: 12:41 p.m. Monday
800-meter freestyle relay
Team Canada swims in Lane 5
Qualifying heat: 4:02 a.m. Tuesday
Finals: 1:47 p.m. Tuesday
*All times are MDT
Steamboat Springs Blake Worsley didn’t let fate decide his future.
Going into his senior year in high school, he sat and watched the 800-meter freestyle Olympic relay between the United States and Australia.
It was then that he decided he would swim in the Olympics.
Never mind that he was a part-time swimmer in Ski Town USA. Never mind that most mornings it was just him and his mom, Patti, at Old Town Hot Springs swimming lap after lap in sub-freezing temperatures.
But passion and perseverance fit Worsley, who will swim the 200-meter freestyle and 800-meter freestyle relay at the 2012 London Olympics.
And as far-fetched as it seemed at the time — an Olympic swimmer from Steamboat? — that fateful July day in 2004 defined the next eight years of his life.
“He has never really cared what other people thought of him, nor did he give time to others that questioned his lofty goals,” Patti Worsley said. “In his heart, he believed and knew he could accomplish those goals.”
Friday’s Opening Ceremonies at the 2012 London Olympics will serve as the fixtures and furnishings of Worsley’s eight-year blueprint.
There were many who thought he couldn’t do it. But that didn’t matter. The one person who knew he could was himself.
“It’s something I’ve always believed was possible,” Worlsey said before heading off to London. “I didn’t need to ask anyone if they thought I could make the Olympics. I knew it was something I could do if I set my mind to it.”
Despite big aspirations, Worsley wasn’t on the radar of most college swimming programs. As a seasonal swimmer in Steamboat, it was tough to get recognition.
But once Worsley decided his future, he did everything he could to get recognized. In 2005, his senior year at Steamboat Springs High School, he started training year-round. He swam 6,000 yards each day and just begged for a chance.
“I truly believe that I could succeed on your swim team, and excel at a rate faster than anyone else on your team,” Worsley wrote in a 2005 letter to college coaches. “I know the potential that I have as a swimmer and I want you to see that I can become one of your best if not your very best swimmer. I am probably more driven than any other swimmer you have had on your swim team.”
He went to the University of Denver to swim. His first year there, he was the slowest swimmer on the team. But as predicted in his letter, Worsley got better and better. He soon became the best swimmer on the team.
During his junior year, he qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 500-meter freestyle. He made the event as the 20th of 21 qualifiers.
Eventually, he finished 10th overall and was named an All-American.
“Going to that meet, I really thought it was possible going to the Olympics,” he said. “I was diving in with all these stars I’d heard of. I was baffled to swim with all these studs.
"But it changed my swimming career. I can be a competitor here."
By his senior year, he was named the Pioneers' Male Athlete of the Year.
Worsley declined to divulge his personal goals for these Olympic Games, preferring to keep them to himself.
With dual citizenship in the United States and Canada, he qualified for his events at the March 27 Canadian Olympic Trials and found out earlier this month that his time of 1 minute, 49.06 seconds was good enough for a ticket to London.
After a brief training camp in Italy, Worsley and Team Canada arrived in London on Tuesday.
What started as a lofty goal in 2004 and was laid out in his letter to colleges in 2005 finally came to fruition this year.
Worsley, who has carried an Olympic rings key chain with him for years as a frequent reminder of his goal, said it hasn’t quite set in that he’s an Olympian.
He said he’ll go through his same pre-swim routine this week while on his sport's biggest stage. He’ll find a lucky penny before swimming and start to visualize.
It shouldn't be hard. He's seen himself here since he was 17.
“I get little moments of realization where I think where I was eight to 10 years ago,” he said. “This is everything. It’s something I’ve dreamt of since I was a little kid. It’s the dream that keeps you working hard day in and day out.
"I would say I had a dream to be good. I had a will to be good.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com