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Meet Kelsi Worrell: Viral Video Creator And Strong Contender For Olympic Swimming Gold

By Peggy Shinn | June 27, 2016, 3:57 p.m. (ET)

Kelsi Worrell celebrates after competing in a preliminary heat for the women's 100-meter butterfly at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming at CenturyLink Center on June 26, 2016 in Omaha, Neb.


OMAHA, Neb. — Until the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming, Kelsi Worrell was perhaps best known for making a video that went viral. 

While returning from a swim meet in North Carolina last November, Worrell, 21, and her University of Louisville teammates were stuck at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Instead of fuming about the delay, they made a video.

Worrell’s Cardinals teammate, Devon Bibault, had seen people create a human bicycle on a moving sidewalk — with one person piggy-backing on another’s flat back and pretending to pedal. When viewed from the side, it resembles a person riding a bike.


Then they simulated rowers in a shell, sitting on the sidewalk and each pulling on an invisible oar as they moved along the sidewalk. And finally, they lay on the moving sidewalk and pretended to swim.

Worrell shot video from the side of the moving sidewalk, captioned it “UofL Swim&Dive Airport Shenanigans... Whoever said swimmers were weird may have been right,” and uploaded the one-minute video to Facebook.

"At first it was like, 'Wow! We have 100 views?'" Worrell told her hometown newspaper’s website, NJ.com. "Somebody said, 'How many views do we need to get viral? Probably a million?' Oh, we'll never get that." 

As of today, it’s had 10,180,694 views. A website in Wales shared it and has had over 22 million additional views.

Tonight, in the 100-meter butterfly final at Olympic Trials, Worrell is hoping to gain another kind of fame. She swam the fastest time in prelims yesterday, beating 2012 Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer. With a 56.84, she also became one of few women to swim the 100 fly under 57 seconds. Then in the semifinal last night, Vollmer popped under 57 seconds (56.90).

Both Vollmer and Worrell are heavy favorites to go 1-2 tonight in the final.

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.

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Kelsi Worrell