EDITORIAL: Hali Flickinger beat odds, made us proud
Hali Flickinger didn't earn a medal at the Rio Olympics.
She finished seventh in the 200-meter butterfly final on Wednesday night.
The Spring Grove High School graduate, however, still earned something that she can cherish forever — the respect and admiration of thousands of folks in York County and beyond.
That's because the 22-year-old swimmer from Papertown has constantly exceeded all reasonable expectations, except for her own.
Flickinger, though, has become an expert at beating the odds. She's done it time and again during her inspiring career.
At just 5 feet, 6 inches tall, she's relatively short for a sport where long bodies, legs and arms are usually considered a major asset.
Still, her small stature didn't stop her from becoming a star for the elite York YMCA and University of Georgia programs.
She effectively made up for her lack of size with an unsurpassed work ethic and exceptional technique.
That combination earned her a berth at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at age of 18 in 2012.
Female swimmers often reach their peaks in their late teens. American Missy Franklin is a prime example. The 6-foot, 2-inch Californian was an Olympic star at age 17 in 2012 in London, but an Olympic afterthought at age 21 in 2016 in Rio.
Flickinger didn't make the American team in 2012, but the experience on the big stage would prove invaluable four years later.
After a stellar career at Georgia, where she became a three-time national champion, Flickinger returned to the U.S. Trials in 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska.
This time, she was ready, even at the “advanced” age of 22..
Again, little was expected of her. She was considered a long shot to make the team. She entered the 200 butterfly at the trials as the fourth seed, and only the top two swimmers in the event would make the U.S. team.
She again beat the odds, finishing second to book her ticket to Rio.
In Brazil, she came in with the 13th-best time. There was no guarantee she would even advance out of the preliminary round.
Undaunted, Flickinger set a personal-best time of 2:06.67 in Tuesday's preliminary to easily qualify for the semifinals. A few hours later, she was back in the pool. Understandably, with just a few hours rest, her semifinal time was a little slower at 2:07.02, but still good enough to qualify sixth for Wednesday's final.
In the final, she touched the wall in 2:07.71. It wasn't her best time.
Nevertheless, Flickinger could still be seen smiling broadly after the race — justifiably so.
After all, she wasn't even supposed to be Rio. Now she leaves Brazil knowing she's among the top butterfly swimmers in the entire world.
That's not too bad for a small-town girl from Pennsylvania who some considered too short, too old and too slow to compete with the world's elite swimmers.
In fact, it's downright astounding.
Congratulations, Hali. You made us all very proud.