Daniel Carr stands on the podium at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on August 07, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
It’s one thing to make your senior-level meet debut for Team USA. Years spent in the pool, day after day of drilling, training and preparing – it all pays off. The moment you pull your goggles tight and line up on the starting block, you join the ranks of legends. Phelps. Adrian. Ledecky. Torres.
But to make your senior-level international debut at the Pan American Games? That’s something else entirely.
Four American athletes made such debuts on Wednesday in Lima, Peru – Daniel Carr, Drew Kibler, Isabelle Stadden and Alex Walsh. Kibler secured the first medal of the group, finishing with the bronze in the men’s 200-meter freestyle. Walsh and Stadden battled to the finish of the women’s 200 backstroke, capturing the gold and silver medal, respectively. Carr rounded out the group with a gold in men’s 200 backstroke.
TeamUSA.org caught up with the former junior national team members to learn more about their Pan American Games experiences, from what surprised them most to a Games moment they’ll never forget.
TeamUSA.org: What was your reaction when you learned you would be making your senior-level international debut at the Pan American Games?
Stadden: I was really excited to represent the U.S. on a higher level. I’ve been to a few junior meets, but this is a bigger deal, so I was thrilled.
Walsh: I remember opening my box and seeing my name on the [swim] cap, and I was just so overwhelmed. I was so proud of myself, proud of my coaches, my team, my family, everything.
TeamUSA.org: What has been your most memorable moment from your time in Lima at the Pan American Games?
Walsh: Definitely just meeting the [Team USA] veterans and hearing what they had to say, getting their wisdom. I mean, I sat with Tom Shields on the bus here and during lunch. It’s just been great to hear all their stories, and I definitely won’t forget it. In meets that I go to after this, I’ll definitely be reminded of that.
TeamUSA.org: What has surprised you most about your experience at the Pan American Games?
Kibler: I think just the friendliness of everybody, to be honest with you. That was probably the least nervous I’ve been going into a final because all of the other competitors, we were just having good conversations in the ready room, which is very fun. I liked that. It was very different, but I liked it.
TeamUSA.org: What does it mean to you to represent Team USA?
Walsh: I’ve worked so hard this season, harder than I ever have, and to be able to come here with the veterans, some of the best that the world has ever seen, it’s crazy.
Kibler: It means everything. During the last 25 meters of the race, I was just completely thinking about how I wanted to represent our country well. I earned this spot, and I wanted to do it justice for people that are watching back home and everyone that has supported me. So, it’s a big deal to have my name on a cap and the flag on that same cap. I just want to represent the USA well.