York County has a nice little Olympic pipeline flowing.
A local athlete has competed in each of the past three Olympic Games — luger Summer Britcher in the Sochi Winter Games in 2014, swimmer Hali Flickinger in the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games in 2016 and Britcher again in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.
Next up is the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, and guess what? The York County Olympic streak has a legitimate chance to continue.
Two legitimate chances for 2020: In fact, it may have two legitimate chances to continue.
Flickinger, a Spring Grove High School graduate, is still excelling as a competitive swimmer. In fact, in the TYR Pro Swim Series, which features some of the top swimmers in the world, Flickinger has won her specialty, the 200-meter butterfly, in each of the series’ last two events at Atlanta in early March and in Mesa, Arizona, just this past weekend. She now competes for the Athens Bulldog Swim Club.
Flickinger, who was an All-American at the University of Georgia, is coming off a seventh-place finish at the Rio Games in the 200 'fly. So, if the 23-year-old standout wishes to continue her career in the pool for two more years, it would certainly be no surprise to see her compete again in Tokyo in 2020.
Thomas making her mark: If Flickinger makes it to Tokyo, she may have to share the York County spotlight with someone who is already quite familiar with the Japanese city.
That’s because West Manchester Township’s Trinity Thomas has established herself as one of the top gymnasts in America.
Thomas, 17, is a member of the U.S. Senior National Gymnastics Team and is coming off an impressive second-place finish on Saturday in the FIG Individual All-Around World Cup Series in — you guessed it — Tokyo.
Making it back to Tokyo in 2020 will not be easy for either Flickinger or Thomas. The U.S. swimming and gymnastics teams are by far the best in the world. Earning an coveted Olympic berth on those American teams is a serious challenge.
Thomas, for one, knows it won’t be easy.
“If I’m healthy mentally and physically and given the opportunity to represent the USA, I’ll be at that meet (the Tokyo Olympics),” Thomas said. “There are no guarantees. I’m on the right path and doing what I need to (do to) be ready if I’m selected.”
Last August, she finished fourth in the all-around competition at the P&G Gymnastics National Championships in Anaheim, California. Individually, Thomas was third on the balance beam, third in floor exercise and sixth in uneven bars.
It was Thomas' first appearance at the USA Gymnastics senior national event.
Still, despite that strong debut performance for the U.S. team, Thomas wasn’t selected for the five-member U.S. squad that competed at the world championships in October of 2017.
Dealing with injuries: Injuries may have played a role in her not making that team, but Thomas knows that injuries are just part of competing in a sport that can take a brutal toll on young bodies.
“I am almost fully recovered,” she said. “I will probably always have some aches and pains. It’s the nature of the sport. I just do the best I can when I can.”
College choice: Thomas recently announced that she’ll continue her gymnastics career for the powerhouse University of Florida program.
Thomas, who trains at Prestige Gymnastics in Lancaster, said her college decision was so difficult that: “I felt horrible. I’m still a little nauseous.”
Ultimately, Florida’s palm trees, warm weather and beaches won her over, along with the school’s outstanding gymnastics pedigree, coaches, team camaraderie and academic reputation.
Competing in other sports: Gymnastics, obviously, is the focus of Thomas’ athletic endeavors, but she also competes in other sports, which should help her avoid the burnout that can plague other young athletes.
This past winter, the cyber-schooled Thomas competed for West York High School and finished second in the state in the PIAA Class 2-A diving competition. She said she may continue to dive at Florida.
“It is definitely a possibility in college,” Thomas said about diving. “I could practice alongside gymnastics and compete my fifth year. I’m leaving my options open.”
This spring, she’s competing on the Bulldogs’ track-and-field team in the dashes, relays and maybe even the pole vault.
“(I’m) trying to enjoy my teenage years and every opportunity I’ve been given,” she said.
Athletic family: It should not be surprising that Thomas excels at multiple sports. She comes from a very athletic family. Her father, Tisen Thomas, thrived on the football field at both York High and Penn State. Her sister, Tesia, has excelled at volleyball, swimming and track and field for the Bulldogs.
Thomas credits her family support, especially from her mother Titania, as being integral to her success.
“My mom has helped me tremendously,” she said. “My family has supported my dreams from the very beginning. My siblings are my No. 1 fans. They show me and tell me how much they love me. … I’ve been so blessed.”
Those dreams include a trip to Tokyo in 2020.
If she can fulfill that dream, she’ll also make sure that York County’s Olympic pipeline continues to flow.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.