For Bethany Galat and Nic Fink, The Rebound is All The More Sweet

nic fink, bethany galat
Photos Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By David Rieder.

Bethany Galat might have been the happiest third-place finisher at Olympic Trials—even though she endured that heartbreaking result twice in a six-day span.

After coming up short behind Maya DiRado and Elizabeth Beisel in the women’s 400 IM, she saw Lilly King and Molly Hannis touch her out to earn the Olympic spots in the 200 breast.

But she had lowered her best times by some seven seconds in the 400 IM, down to 4:37.69, and by five in the 200 breast, to 2:24.52. She figured, why be upset with that?

“I mean, I wasn’t expecting it. I dropped a ton of time,” Galat said. “I was expecting making finals would be a great goal. Finishing third? Just to be in the mix was really fun.”

Nic Fink’s Trials experience was quite the opposite. After making the World Championships team in both the 100 and 200 breast in 2013 and 2015, he ended up finishing seventh in both distances at Trials. His times of 1:00.39 in the 100 and 2:11.55 in the 200 were nowhere near his best.

nic-fink-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

He had battled nagging knee and groin injuries throughout the year, but he wouldn’t make excuses for himself. Whereas Galat quickly found consolation in her massive improvements, Fink was flat-out disappointed.

Galat still had two more years of NCAA eligibility at Texas A&M, so her forward trajectory seemed clear, particularly with her rate of improvement. Even if she was more than satisfied with Trials, she “had a fire in my heart” to push for one spot better at this year’s World Championship Trials.

For Fink, it wasn’t quite so simple, as he had already been done competing for the Georgia Bulldogs for more than a year. If he had some doubts about his future in the sport, the backing of friends, family and coaches was plenty to convince him to give it another go.

“I knew I had a fun time swimming,” Fink said. “I wanted to be successful, and I think they found something in me that I did not see in myself at the time. They kept pushing me, and here I am.”

Yes, here he is. Back on the World Championships team. The men’s 200 breast had been billed as a rematch of Josh Prenot, Kevin Cordes and Will Licon, the three men whose duel at last summer’s Olympic Trials was the best race of the meet. Andrew Wilson had thrown his name into the hat with a 2:08.64 to lead the morning prelims.

But while Cordes pulled away and touched first in 2:07.41, Fink had just enough to finish second. He got to the wall in a lifetime best time of 2:08.63, nine hundredths ahead of American record-holder and Olympic silver medalist Prenot.

“It feels great. It’s really been a long year. Working harder this year,” Fink said. “Knowing that all that came together and I’m back on the travel team, it means a lot.”

While Fink’s supporters had to await scoreboard confirmation of his finish, Galat’s would have felt pretty comfortable coming down the last 50 in the women’s 200 breast final. Galat took over second place on the third lap, touching the wall a full second ahead of third-place Katie Meili at the 150, and she kept on accelerating.

On the last 50, Galat was closing down Lilly King. It was actually a familiar setting, racing head-to-head with King at the IUPUI Natatorium, as the two had so often at Indiana age group and high school meets over the years.

King held on to touch first in 2:21.83, but Galat was right behind in 2:22.24. For the Texas A&M senior-to-be, the time was her lifetime best by two seconds and the fourth-fastest time in the world this year, but most importantly, it was enough to punch her ticket to her first international meet.

“I thought I was up there just because I know Lilly always goes fast,” Galat said. “But seeing it in print, it’s something I’ll never forget, and it’ll always have a special place in my heart being that this is my first international team. It really does mean a lot to me, obviously. It’s just a testament to all the support I have at A&M and back home and everything. It’s special.”

Tears flowed as Galat grasped the enormity of her swim, and before she knew it, a fellow Texas A&M Aggie was flying over the lane lines to greet her.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Breeja Larson had faded to eighth in the 200 breast final, but she was far from upset as she looked at the scoreboard, overcome with joy for her former training partner.

“She’s really a special friend to me and a special teammate,” Galat said of Larson. “Always supportive of everyone she knows, everyone she swims with. It was special to share that moment, for her to be the first person I hugged.”

For Galat, making it to the World Championships meant jubilation. For Fink, it meant relief and validation. Both would have been overjoyed had they punched their tickets to Rio last summer, but the fact that they didn’t will make this trip to Budapest all the more special.

Watch video interviews with Bethany Galat and Nic Fink: