Thursday was Hali Flickinger's 22nd birthday.
Unlike most birthdays, however, there was no cake and presents. Instead, there was swimming. And fulfilling an extensive list of media obligations.
Any birthday celebrations need to be minor because, right now, Flickinger's sole focus needs to be on the pool. She has less than one month to go until the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
For the most part, things have returned to normal for the Spring Grove High School graduate and former York YMCA swimming standout. She struggled to sleep in the days following her second-place finish in the 200-meter butterfly final at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, which qualified her for the U.S. Olympic team. Now, Flickinger is happy to get full night of sleep again. Along with that, after traveling from Omaha and arriving back in Athens, Georgia, Flickinger and the rest of her University of Georgia teammates who made the Olympic team are back to a normal training schedule, while prepping for the Summer Games.
"We are, I would say, up to 95 percent of where we were before we went down for taper," Flickinger said on Thursday. "It was a quick turnaround. There were a few days where we struggled for a bit because we were used to taper, but now we're back to full force and trying to get better."
Normal or not, the training regimen for Olympic-caliber swimmers is hardly enviable. Now that Flickinger is back to a full regimen, three times a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — she's swimming double practice sessions. Mix in weight training and meeting weekly yardage requirements and it's no wonder there was a bit of a struggle to work back up from the taper period.
Flickinger, however, is also back in the familiar surroundings of her own pool, swimming with her own teammates from Georgia from now until the team leaves for Rio. In total, 11 current and former Bulldogs qualified for the Olympic Games, including eight Americans.
For Flickinger, these next few weeks are going to be just like college with Georgia. She'll be around her friends who she's competed with for the last four years, as well as her coach, Jack Bauerle, who recruited her, coached her and will now be with her during the Olympics, serving as a coach for the U.S. national team.
"It's a comfort zone for the athlete," Bauerle said. "We're so used to working with each other, and now she doesn't get any curve ball here. She and I are used to each other. She knows that I have total respect for her and love the way she trains, and it is a little bit different. There are some idiosyncrasies that every athlete has, so it's really nice to have the knowledge of them when they go off because this is the most important time of their life."
So, while Thursday wasn't the most typical birthday celebration for your average 22 year old, it was normal for Flickinger, and a welcome change of pace from what the last week of her life was like.
Then again, most 22 year olds aren't preparing for the Olympic Games.
Send the Flickingers to Rio: While Hali is prepping to compete in the Olympics, the rest of the Flickinger family is trying to figure out how it will watch her compete.
Of course they'll have the opportunity to tune in on TV, just like the rest of the country, but that would hardly seem right. So, a family friend of the Flickingers made a GoFundMe page to help raise money so the Flickingers can get to Rio to watch Hali swim.
The page is asking for $10,000 in donations to help send her parents, Doug and Lea, and other family members to the Olympics. So far, the page has raised more than $3,500 since it was started on July 1.
If you wish to donate, you can do so by visiting the page, GoFundMe page "Hali Flickinger and Family Rio 2016."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org