COLUMBIA — Although it took him 16 years to accept it, swimming has always been in Missouri junior Sam Tierney's blood.
His grandfather was a swimmer. His father, Bob Tierney, was an All-American backstroke swimmer at Southern California in 1977 and 1978.
Despite this legacy, Sam Tierney didn't try swimming competitively until he was 16 years old.
"I did a little bit of every sport like soccer, basketball, track, cross country and then a little bit of rec swimming," Tierney said. "My dad swims still, and he has friends and their sons swim as well. I got to know them, and I would watch them swim. They were all very good, and I got kind of jealous of how good they were. I started figuring I would do this competitively."
Tierney joined the club swimming team City of Plano Swimmers in Plano, Texas, the same team that made him jealous at first. Since the 16-year-old started swimming so late, he says he started in the 10-year-old group.
"It took about a year to move up to their level," Tierney said of his friends. "Then, once I was in their group, I slowly started catching up, and then, I got to race them."
Tierney's dad and his friends would watch them race in Plano, and his dad still makes the trip to Columbia to watch Sam at Missouri.
"He loves coming to watch," Tierney said. "He came last year to the Missouri Invite, watched SECs, he watched NCAAs, and he's coming next week as well to watch."
The 2013 Missouri Invitational starts Nov. 21, an important event for the Tigers men's and women's teams to qualify for the NCAA Championships in March.
Though Tierney and his father have a swimming connection, they are opposites in the events they swim.
"He was a big time backstroker, and he couldn't swim breaststroke for his life," Tierney said of his father. "My best stroke is breaststroke, so he loves to tease me about that."
Throughout his time at MU, Tierney has won many individual awards. At the 2013 NCAA Championships, he received first-team All-American honors while placing seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke. This season, he received SEC Male Swimmer of the Week honors Oct. 29.
"At the moment that they were given to me, I viewed them as honors, and I'm very proud of them," Tierney said of his accolades. "Right after, to me, they're more of a responsibility to handle. I really want to build on them. I don't want to just ride off of them."
After this season, Tierney has one more year of eligibility at Missouri. He plans to finish his senior year and then begin training for the 2016 Olympic trials.
"I'll have a whole year just to train," Tierney said. "If I make it, great. If I don't make it, I'm still very happy with everything I've done."
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