Although the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials are a precursor to the Olympic Games, the trials can also be an endpoint for some.
Emily DiBenigno, a 22-year-old Carmel, Ind., native who just completed her senior season with the Missouri swim team, will compete in her "last race" on Friday in the 200 breaststroke at the trials.
Best Times in the 200 Breaststroke:
- 2:35:40 (Feb. 10 at 2012 Missouri Grand Prix)
- 2:13:88 (Feb. 22 at 2012 Big 12 Swimming and Diving)
"I may swim again in the future, but I am done with all four years of college and may do a masters in the future," DiBenigno said in an interview on Skype.
But, what has compelled DiBenigno, who has been swimming since she was 4 years old, to stop after Friday’s race?
Her answer: France.
"I am actually going to Nice, France, to study abroad for my fifth year at Mizzou. France has a good business school I will be studying at, and I wanted to be able to travel everywhere in Europe," DiBenigno said.
DiBenigno is studying communications and also hotel and restaurant management. She said she is excited to travel abroad and that France "just looks beyond beautiful."
DiBenigno said she still plans to stay connected to the Missouri swimming team while abroad and will be keeping an eye on her fellow Tigers.
"I am very excited for the team competing in the SEC conference and will be looking up how they do at all of their dual and big meets,” she said.
Her affection for her teammates is clear.
"My best memories at Mizzou are some of the long bus rides back where the team plays Catch Phrase all together or simply Truth-or-Dare," she said.
DiBenigno is also close to her competitors.
"I interact with my competitors and teammates the same as I always do, just laugh and have fun with them. Many of my competitors are my best friends and I enjoy when they succeed just as much as they do," she said.
In terms of this year’s Olympic Trials, DiBenigno said she is excited to be part of the experience and just wants to have fun, hopefully ending it with her fastest time in the 200 breaststroke.
"I don't really have any fears for trials, I am too excited to swim to worry about anything," she said.
But, the Olympic Trials are still a one-of-a-kind experience for DiBenigno.
"I feel differently at this meet because this is the first time ever where '’ve seen a fully packed crowd come out to watch and the first time where I was extremely proud to be an American. The overwhelming support from fans and the USA pride is unbelievable," DiBenigno said.