NANJING, China -- Meghan Small entered international competition for the first time Sunday night, and she did not disappoint. Racing in her signature event – the 200-meter individual medley – she clinched Team USA’s first bronze medal of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. A feat made even more impressive by the fact that she only began swimming competitively four years ago.
Touching the wall in a time of 2:14.01, Small explained the overwhelming emotions of landing on the podium: “I felt really fulfilled. I was really excited, because my goal was to come here and medal. When I want to do something, I most likely will do it. I was filled with joy to represent Team USA on the podium.”
Despite not feeling 100 percent prior to the final, Small received the best cure possible: support from her teammates, who were on-hand to cheer from the stands. With a palpable camaraderie between the four men and four women swimmers, it didn’t take very long for the group to bond. “We’ve only been together for six days and we’re all already ready so close,” Small said. “The girls are amazing. They’re all such motivators, and they are so happy for you when you succeed. It’s incredible to have them here by my side.”
With untapped potential, the 16-year-old has navigated the competitive waters of the swimming world in a few short years and has seen a meteoric rise to the top of the ranks, including a third-place finish in the 200 individual medley at the 2013 Junior National Championships. Known for her strength in the breaststroke leg of the event – an area where other swimmers tend to struggle – Small utilizes this advantage to pull away from the pack and secure victory.
The Maryland native credits her success to her calmness in high-pressure moments, a quality she attributes to her mother, and the coaching she has received back home. For a late bloomer relative to her swimming peers, Small has quickly transformed from newcomer to a regular on the podium.
Not wasting any time to play “catch up,” the approach has been no different in Nanjing, China. This mentality has paid off, with Small capitalizing on the experience competing against the world’s best – an impressive first international event for any competitor.
Small will race Monday (Aug. 18) in two more events, including the women’s 4x100 medley alongside teammates Hannah Moore, Courtney Mykkanen and Clara Smiddy, in which she has high hopes of adding a second medal to her collection.
Reflecting on her experience in Nanjing, Small noted, “The Youth Olympic Games has definitely opened up my eyes to bigger and better things. It’s showing how I can rank among international swimmers. We’ll see what happens when Rio comes around.”
One thing is clear: This is only the beginning.
In addition to Small’s medal, U.S. swimmers made their Youth Olympic Games debut at the Natatorium of the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center in a number of events. Headlining these results were Patrick Conaton, Patrick Mulcare and Smiddy. Conaton and Mulcare both advanced to the semifinals of the men’s 100 backstroke, while Smiddy advanced to the semifinals of the women’s 100 backstroke.
Team USA looks to continue its long-standing tradition of success in the water in the upcoming weeks of competition, where all lanes have potential to lead to the podium for these athletes.