Jason Devaney, NBC Olympics
LONDON – Jessica Hardy stepped onto the pool deck at London’s Aquatic Centre earlier this week, took a look around and burst into tears.
Was she nervous? Nope. Scared? Absolutely not.
She was proud. Proud to represent the United States at the Olympics for the first time in her life. After what she went through the last four years, her reaction was completely understandable.
Hardy qualified for the 2008 Olympic team but shortly after Trials she gave up her spot after learning she tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance. She was banned for one year and the incident affected her in many ways. Two years later the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled she was not at fault because she had ingested a tainted supplement. In 2011, Hardy was deemed eligible to compete in London if she made the team.
At last month’s Olympic Trials, Hardy became an Olympian.
“The moment I stepped foot on the deck for the first time, that was when I fulfilled my dream since I was five,” Hardy told us today. “I was at the Olympics; I was a competitor at the Olympics. I cried really hard. It’s beautiful; it’s the coolest experience. It’s the dream I’ve been having forever.”
Hardy’s journey to London was not smooth, however. She considered her best event to be the 100m breaststroke, but previously unknown swimmer Breeja Larson won the race at Trials ahead of Rebecca Soni. Hardy finished third and did not qualify. Undaunted, Hardy turned all her focus to the 50m and 100m freestyles – she won both and made the squad.
Now Hardy is having a blast and enjoying her Olympic experience as best she can. Last night she met some members of the U.S. men’s basketball team – LeBron James gave her a hug and she was able to find Kobe Bryant, “the only basketball player that I’ve ever cared about. I’m from L.A., big fan.”
We asked Hardy if the experience of being here is what she expected it to be.
“Everything’s 100 times more than I could have ever dreamed,” she said. “I can kind of compare it to being a 5 year old going to Disneyland for the first time, but times 100. Everything that’s happening is extremely awesome. The dining hall, the dorm rooms, all the people – there’s music going on all the time. It’s like a huge festival, a huge carnival, and it’s a blast.”
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.