EDITORIAL: Hali Flickinger gives York County a once-in-a-generation opportunity

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Spring Grove High School graduate Hali Flickinger is swimming in the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
  • Flickinger is favored by The Associated Press to win gold in the 200-meter butterfly.
  • Flickinger will compete in the 200 butterfly heats and semifinals on Tuesday.
  • If she qualifies, Flickinger will swim in the 200 butterfly final on Wednesday night.

Over the next couple days, folks here in York County have a one-in-a-generation opportunity.

They may get to witness one of their own capture an Olympic gold medal.

Hali Flickinger, of United States, holds up her bronze medal for the women's 400-meter Individual medley at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

How unusual is that?

Well, the last York County gold medalist came nearly three decades ago, when Dover’s Scott Strausbaugh triumphed in the two-man canoe slalom with partner Joe Jacobi at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

Now Spring Grove High School graduate Hali Flickinger will try to duplicate Strausbaugh’s feat during the Tokyo Summer Games in the 200-meter butterfly.

Hali Flickinger, of United States, swims in a heat for the women's 400-meter Individual medley at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Favored to win: Flickinger is favored to win the event, according to The Associated Press projections, but there is, of course, no guarantee that Flickinger will emerge victorious, especially in a sport where the world’s top competitors are often separated by just hundredths of a second.

In fact, Flickinger has some work to do Tuesday just to get to Wednesday night’s final. A slip-up anywhere along the line could derail her gold-medal hopes.

Swimmer Hali Flickinger nabs Olympic medal: What you need to know about our local athletes

Flickinger will first compete in a heat race at 6:28 a.m. Tuesday (televised by USA). If she performs as expected, she’ll move on to a semifinal race at 9:57 p.m. Tuesday (on NBC). If she again performs as expected and posts one of the top eight times in the semifinals, she’ll move to the final at 10:28 p.m. Wednesday (again on NBC).

It will be a grueling couple of days for the former University of Georgia standout who now trains in Arizona under legendary swim coach Bob Bowman – the man who helped mold Michael Phelps into an Olympic legend.

Ken Krout, left, and Bonna Krout, center, cheer as their granddaughter Hali Flickinger is shown on screen during a watch party for the women's 400 individual medley event at Spring Grove Middle School.

Reaching a whole new level: With Bowman’s help, and some mentoring from Phelps, as well, the late-blooming 27-year-old Flickinger has taken her swimming abilities to a whole new level. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio, she finished seventh in the 200 butterfly. Now she is favored to win the competition in 2021.

Hali Flickinger wins bronze in 400M individual medley at Olympics

She is also coming off a bronze-medal performance in the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday night.

Dozens of her friends and family watched that medal-winning performance during a watch party at Spring Grove Middle School. Assuming she makes the 200 butterfly final, even more folks will likely show up for another watch party at the same location on Wednesday night for the final of Flickinger’s best event.

Thousands more in York County, and millions across the world, will be glued to their televisions at home on Wednesday night to see if she can achieve one of the few goals that has eluded her in her storied swimming career: an Olympic gold medal.

Added pressure: Being favored to win Olympic gold is something new for Flickinger. The pressure on her will be enormous. Still, she’s already proven, with her bronze-medal effort on Saturday night, that she’s ready to cope with the stress that comes with competing on the biggest stage in her sport.

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She should also swim secure in the knowledge that she has the full support of her friends, family and supporters here in York County. She should also be buoyed by the fact that she is serving as an inspiration to our area’s young swimmers – especially the young girls.

Hopefully, a little after 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, folks here in York County will be celebrating our own gold-medal champion.

No matter what happens, Flickinger will forever be a champion in the hearts and minds of the folks here in York County.