At the U.S. Olympic swim trials, the top two athletes in each race make the Olympic team in that race. It doesn’t matter if the swimmer is a four-time Olympian like Allison Schmitt or a teenager like Torri Huske. Swim fast enough, and you’re going to the Olympics.
With the Tokyo Games pushed back a year, the 18-year-old Huske had more time to work on strength training while preparing to swim the 100-meter butterfly. Without that year, she’s not sure if she would have made the Olympic team.
“I definitely wouldn't have been as fast — or I wouldn't have done as well as I did without it," Huske said. "I feel like COVID was a blessing. I tried to make the best out of it that I could. And I feel like the strength training made a big difference in my second 25 because I normally tend to just, like, fly and die. I just go out hard and then I kind of just see if I can hold on, so I feel like it really helped my second 50.”
Her speed in the butterfly opened the door for Huske to be one of 11 teenagers on the U.S. swimming delegation to Tokyo. The Olympic Trials were her first, and the Olympics will be her first senior-level international meet. She had to remind herself, though, that swimming is swimming and water is water.
“It looked scary, but it was not that bad. I was preparing myself to be scared and intimidated when I walked in, and I thought, 'OK, it's not that bad,'" Huske said. “Then even on race day, I feel like I don't usually try to think about my swims until, like, I'm warming up."
With so much success at a young age, Huske relies on the people close to her to make sure she doesn’t get a big head.
“I feel like my friends keep me grounded because they treat me like a normal person," she said. "I couldn't have done this without them, I feel like, just because they're so supportive and I love them so much.
"What keeps me focused, I feel like my coach, my parents and myself. I feel like I know my goals and I know what it's going to take to get there. I guess my goals keep me focused.”
Huske’s mother grew up in a labor camp in China at the time of the Cultural Revolution. Many colleges were closed throughout the revolution, so when Huske’s mother was old enough to test for college, she had to compete with people much older who had been waiting for universities to reopen. She did it, going to college at just 16, and then eventually moving to the United States to attend Virginia Tech.
“Yeah, I feel like she is a really big inspiration to me," Huske said. "I'm just lucky to have her."
After the Olympics, Huske plans to attend Stanford, where she will once again be swimming with Olympic greats like Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. But first, she will compete on the first full day of the Olympics. She’s ready for the pressure.
“I feel like I usually swim better when there is a lot of energy," Huske said. "I feel like when the more pressure there is, I feel like the better I do, which is kind of weird. But I don't know. I guess it works.”