By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, July 21, 2017
For the most part, Kelsi Worrell tries to block out memories of her individual event last summer at the Rio Olympics.
Not the relay, where she contributed the butterfly leg to a U.S. team gold medal in the 400 medley relay. And she said she’ll never forget the fun times and laughs she shared with her fellow Olympic teammates and the many memories she made over the course of the meet.
For Worrell, who won the 100 fly at Olympic Trials and went to Rio as a medal favorite, she underperformed by her standards and against expectations and missed the medals stand. Worse than that, she missed making the finals altogether – finishing ninth and out of the top 8.
Moving forward, Worrell decided to put her bad race from Rio behind her. She did just that at Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships by winning the 50 and 100 butterfly events and also earned a spot on the 400 free relay (with her top 3 finish in the 100 freestyle) at FINA World Championships next week in Budapest. She’ll also swim the fly leg on the 400 medley relay and in the mixed medley relays.
“Aside from Trials, the Olympics were my first really big meet, and being on edge in a completely different environment, I had a terrible finish,” said Worrell, whose previous exposure to international competition was at the 2015 Pan American Games, where she won two gold medals and one silver medal. “I was very disappointed and it took me a while to get past it. But I relied upon my faith, and I got through it smarter and better than before.
“I honestly don’t think I would have survived Rio if it wasn’t for my faith. I was heartbroken, but I put my trust in Jesus as I warmed down (after her race), and knew the next day would be better as would the next day and the next day. I learned from that experience and have used it to my advantage.”
The oldest of six kids in her family – all competitive swimmers, including sister, Taylor, who swims for the University of South Carolina – Worrell started her Olympic swimming journey at age 7. She spent her summer days at the neighborhood pool in her hometown of Westampton, N.J.
And while she said she didn’t particularly like swimming during that first summer – especially the cold mornings, often crying not to get into the water – Worrell said she slowly made friends and eventually joined year-round.
Guided by her continued faith, Worrell went to Louisville to attend college and swim and surrounded herself with other believers. During her years there, she won several NCAA titles in the 100 and 200 fly events and earned multiple All-America honors.
As a “daughter of God,” faith has taught her over the course of her life that joy doesn’t come from success or failure and neither of those outcomes defines who she is.
“Even during the lowest and highest times in my life, I always come back to my faith because I don’t want either of those to dictate who I am,” said Worrell, the 2015 National Champion in the 100 butterfly. “I get disappointed and discouraged – everyone does – but I don’t allow myself to linger on either.
“That’s why it was relatively easy for me to move on from what happened in Rio. I knew I still had the relay to swim, and I had to get mentally ready for that. I didn’t want to let my teammates down, so I took those six days in between events to get ready for what was still to come and enjoy the overall experience.”
Worrell continued her Rio Rebound in grand fashion later last year at Short Course World Championships, where she won silver medals and set American records in the 50, 100 and 200 butterfly events and also won four relay gold medals.
She identified that meet as a “very positive step” in her process toward achieving her next goal of making her first World Championship team.
And now, she’s just hours away from redeeming herself against the best in the world – and she gets to do it with training partner and friend Mallory Comerford and longtime Louisville Coach Arthur Albiero in Budapest to enjoy the experience.
“I’m so thankful for every opportunity I get to race, and I want to enjoy and make the most of every one of those opportunities,” said Worrell, who became engaged this spring to boyfriend Thomas Dahlia and is planning a wedding for this October.
“Mallory and I were teammates at Louisville, but we really bonded last December at Short Course Worlds, so to have her and Alberto there with me in Budapest, as well as most of my teammates from last year’s Olympic team, will make for an amazing experience and meet. I love racing, and I’m excited to get in the water and compete.”For more expert analysis and insight from the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, catch Deck Pass Live, right here on usaswimming.org. The show begins approximately one hour after finals. Also, follow our coverage from Hungary on Facebook and Twitter. #DeckPassLive.
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