A few years ago, Carson City's Julie Hardt saw how far she would have to go to make it to the world class level in swimming.
After having to deal with injuries following last year's Olympic trials, the goal may have still seemed so far away for Hardt. But Hardt didn't see it that way.
Hardt will represent the United States at next week's World Championships in Japan. Hardt will compete in the 800-meter freestyle relay on Wednesday.
"Even a few years ago, it was so out of reach," said Hardt about keeping up with world class swimmers. "Now to be able to keep up with them and train at their level, I'm not so intimidated by them any more. I'm almost at their level."
But after competing in the Olympic trials, it looked like Hardt's effort to make the World Championship team would be curtailed when she had tendinitis in both shoulders. But Hardt didn't let that slow her down.
"It's kind of been a goal of mine after Olympic trials. I set the goal to make the World Championship team," Hardt said.
Hardt kept training through running and biking. "I was kind of expecting to make the team, I guess," she said. "I knew it was going to be hard to do it, but I never gave up trying even though I wasn't in the water."
Hardt was able to come back from her injuries to have a memorable year. As a freshman this past season, Hardt became an All-American and played a pivotal role in the University of Georgia winning another NCAA title in women's swimming.
She then placed sixth in the 200 free at the USA National Championships, which won her a spot on the U.S. 800 free relay team for the World Championships.
The third through sixth place finishers in the 200 free at the U.S. Championships are scheduled to swim in the preliminaries of the 800 free relay on Wednesday. If Hardt's performance in that relay is strong enough, she could be chosen to swim in the finals that night, giving her a chance at a World title.
Hardt's chances seem to be good since she was within a half second of the third through fifth place finishers at the U.S. Championships.
So Hardt and the other relay swimmers will find themselves in the awkward position of having to work with each other, but at the same time, competing with each other to make the finals.
"I know all of the girls on the team, basically," said Hardt about the relay. "It's kind of awkard that we have to race each other."
But the U.S. coaches could also decide to use swimmers from other events for the finals.
"I'm sure whoever will make the final four will be the best decision," Hardt said. "Either way, I'm just happy to make the squad and represent my country.
"My goal would be to make the finals. Another main goal is just to go out and have some fun."
Hardt has loftier goals for the future, including making the national team in individual events. The 2004 Olympics are also a goal.
"I haven't been at their level for very long," said Hardt about making the World Championships. "I don't feel like I'm part of the team, yet."
But Hardt is looking forward to her first World Championships. "It's pretty exciting to be going," she said.
Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.