Swimming: Claire Curzan - from ballet and summer swims to becoming a world challenger

The young American is hoping to continue her rapid rise later this month at the world championships in Budapest

By Olympics.com
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

American swimmer Claire Curzan has gone from child prodigy to the world’s biggest sporting stage.

Curzan was a member of Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, at the age of 17, earning a silver medal as part of the 4x100m medley relay team. Individually, she finished 10th in the 100m butterfly.

Success at such a young age is something that has become routine for the North Carolina-native, who trained as a ballet dancer as a child.

When others her age might have been busy playing hide-and-seek in the summer with neighbors or running between dance classes and other sport practices, Curzan was already cruising in the pool. Her summers were already filled with swimming – and maybe even a little ice cream.

“My favorite part about Summer Swim were the meets because everyone just gawked at this little blonde girl who liked to swim fast,” Curzan told The Guardian in an interview prior to Tokyo. “I would probably get ice cream afterward because I have a big sweet-tooth. You never have fast food and swimming at the same place.”

A rapid rise for Curzan

Ballet began to fall away, she says, around age 11. She didn’t like the tights. Instead, her focus became the pool.

Five years later, after training in a neighbor’s backyard pool during COVID-19 lockdowns, she was at the Olympics.

Now, Curzan finds herself as one of Team USA’s most impressive swimmers. In April, NBC’s Olympic Talk blog called her the most dominant U.S. swimmer of 2022, and she stands ready to make a big splash at the world championships in Budapest.

She was in spectacular form at the U.S. world trials. The event took place in Greensboro, North Carolina, close to where she has grown up and she looked more than comfortable in the Aquatic Center’s pool.

Claire Curzan competes in the Women's 50m Butterfly Final on Day Two of the Phillips 66 International Team Trials
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Success at home before heading to world stage

At the trials, Curzan won the 50 fly and finished second in the 100 free, 100 fly, 100 back.

“I definitely think confidence is something I’ve been working on,” Curzan told SwimSwam at the trials. “I think the Olympics is great and just kind of getting a taste of the biggest stage in the world.

"Now, being able to reflect on that and being able to be better at these meets when the competition is still high, and you can still feel the tension because it’s a qualifying meet but then knowing that I’ve done it before and I can do it again and that my training has helped me for this moment.”

A veteran of the 2021 short course worlds, where she won six medals including two golds, and the 2019 junior worlds, where she picked up four medals, the moment now is both so far away from those Summer Swims and also one that feels like destiny.

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