Missouri swimmer enjoying Olympic trials

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | 8:35 p.m. CDT; updated 11:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Sam Tierney

Missouri sophomore Sam Tierney is off to a promising start at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.

Tierney, or "Big Thammy" as his friends call him, a 19-year-old finance major at MU from Plano, Texas, qualified to compete in the 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter backstroke and 200-meter breaststroke. He swam Monday in both his 100-meter events, and while he didn’t move on to the finals he remains optimistic about his "main event for the week:" Thursday’s 200 breaststroke.

"The first day was great," Tierney said in an interview on Skype. "I won my heat in the 100 breast which was a cool feeling. Not going at my best time in the 100 back was frustrating, but I’m going to focus on the 200 breast on Thursday and keep my head up.

"Making a semifinal in the 200 breast would be incredible, but realistically, I think going a 2:15 or 2:16 would be great."

Overall, Tierney said he sees the trials as a great way to become a better swimmer. His goal is to gain more experience for his next three years of college swimming, the 2016 Olympic Trials and a shot at earning a medal in the Olympics.

And so far, Tierney is enjoying his journey.

"That’s what it’s all about. There’s no way I would be here if I haven’t loved every part of it," Tierney said.

But, the Olympic Trials can be stressful. Tierney said that outside of the pool all the Missouri swimmers have done is get as much sleep as possible and keep their minds off of the meet, "which usually means movies." His biggest fear is flinching on the blocks or giving up in a race. But, Tierney said the coaches are careful to keep the swimmers grounded.

Not having a level head can ruin a swimmer's performance.

"Our coaches want us to approach the meet just as any other in order to not get caught up in the drama ... all the emotions that are swimming around in everyone’s head about making the team," Tierney said.

His teammates and coaches all have been encouraging him to do his best, and the cheers from the crowd don’t hurt either.

"My favorite part has been the huge stage we are on in the competition pool and having people scream for me to do well," Tierney said.

And, what about after the Olympic Trials?

Tierney expects to make NCAA finals this coming season and see if he can’t make it all the way to the final heats. His plan is to get as close as possible to winning an event by his junior or senior year. 

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