NANJING, China -- On her 18th birthday, Hannah Moore received a sparkling present: a Youth Olympic gold medal.
Seeded fifth in the women’s 400-meter freestyle final Friday night, Moore dove out of the blocks and never looked back. She developed a sizable lead in Lane 2 and out-paced her competition throughout a majority of the race, only to see signs of déjà vu from Tuesday night, where she ultimately tied for a share of the women’s 200 backstroke gold medal.
“I could tell I was ahead of Lane 4, so I was swinging away out there hoping no one would out-touch me,” Moore said.
On the final night of swimming at the Olympic Sports Center Natatorium, Moore made sure her name stood alone atop the leaderboard this time. With the other swimmers narrowing the gap on the last 50 meters, she closed the deal in a time of 4:11.05.
“I was so shocked,” Moore said. “I was thinking today that I just wanted to get into the race, and maybe see if I could get a bronze and touch in there for third. The 200 backstroke – I knew I wanted that medal and I was just going for it. This was a surprise — a birthday surprise.”
Moore’s international debut could not have been scripted better, as she currently holds more medals (and gold medals) than any other American competing at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games just past the halfway mark.
Surprisingly, Moore was initially unsure of herself entering the Youth Olympic Games. “Coming in here, I didn’t know if I was going to compete at my best, but I somehow found a way,” she noted. To manage the spotlight and expectations, Moore said she imagined swimming in North Carolina to remain focused and credits her coach in preparing her for this moment. “I love and admire my coach back home. I’m going to give this medal to him because he deserves it.”
Back home is also where Moore’s love of swimming began. The Cary, North Carolina, native’s parents met at a local swimming club when they were young. Adding to the family ties, Moore’s father, Mike, swam collegiately at La Salle University in Pennsylvania and her mother, Amy, attended the University of Michigan – where Moore will swim in the fall. Somehow, she has found a way to follow in her parents’ footsteps while also beginning to carve out her own legacy.
While not in attendance in Nanjing, China, Moore’s parents anxiously watched her race live – cheering on their daughter from the couch in between a slew of birthday messages and phone calls.
The support has made all the difference. When asked what she will do to celebrate upon her return, Moore explained, “My dad is picking me up from the airport. I’m going to give him a big hug and let him see my medal!”
For a woman who entered her first international competition overwhelmed, Moore exits the Youth Olympic Games brimming with confidence after displaying her diverse talent across multiple events.
Hearing the national anthem play for a second time from the podium was no less significant than her first trip. She reflected on tonight’s success: “I’m just happy to do this for Team USA. It was the best present ever.”
For Moore, her second gold medal is simply icing on the cake.
In addition to Moore’s standout performance, Patrick Mulcare nearly missed the podium in the men’s 200-meter backstroke final, finishing fourth in a time of 1:59.65. Competing in the men’s 200-meter butterfly final, teammate Justin Wright placed sixth in 1:59.40.