Flickinger finishes 7th at Olympics in 200 butterfly
- Spring Grove's Hali Flickinger finished seventh in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2016 Olympics.
- Her time of 2:07.71 was less than three seconds off a podium spot.
- She became the first York County swimmer to compete in the Olympics since 1996.
SPRING GROVE — As Spring Grove's Hali Flickinger competed in the women's 200-meter butterfly final at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday evening, her younger brother, Chase, was back home, rooting her on.
As Flickinger tried to keep pace with the rest of the eight-swimmer final field, Chase was shouting "Let's Go!" and "Pick it up!"
Despite Chase's words of encouragement from more than 3,000 miles away, Flickinger couldn't quite keep pace with the speed of her opponents in the final, finishing seventh in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2 minutes, 7.71 seconds.
Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia won gold in the event with a time of 2:04.85, just .03 seconds ahead of Madeline Groves of Australia. Natsumi Hoshi finished with the bronze with a time of 2:05.10, while Flickinger's American teammate, Cammile Adams, just missed out on getting a medal, finishing fourth.
The women's 200 butterfly remains the longest current medal drought in American swimming. A U.S. swimmer has failed to win a medal in the event since the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
"Just making it to the championship final is incredible for her," Chase said. "Even though she didn't make the medal stand, it's still something to be proud of."
Flickinger could never make a move in the final, turning in fifth place at the halfway point. By the time she made the turn into the final 50 meters, she slipped back into eighth. She made one final push to sneak into the seventh position.
Flickinger was swimming in her first Olympics and entered the Games with the 13th-fastest qualifying time in the world in the event. However, she immediately raised expectations for herself by securing the second-fastest preliminary time on Tuesday afternoon with a personal-best effort of 2:06.62.
She went slower in the semifinal swim on Tuesday night, finishing fourth and qualifying sixth overall for Wednesday night's final.
Flickinger was the first York County swimmer to compete in the Olympics since Whitney Metzler finished eighth in the 400-meter individual medley at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Flickinger swam competitively for the York YMCA by the time she was 11 years old and went on to win three national championships at the University of Georgia.
Watch party: For the second consecutive night, Spring Grove hosted a watch party at Spring Grove Community Park, with a similarly-sized crowd showing up for the final swim.
When Flickinger was introduced before her race, the crowd erupted, proud not only to see the town's name broadcast across television screens throughout the country, but also to see one of their own representing them.
"It means everything," Chase said about the support the community showed his sister and his family. "To see all these people come out, today and yesterday, the atmosphere, it was phenomenal."
Throughout Spring Grove, banners wished Hali "Good Luck" and spectators arrived to the watch party for the second straight night with blue shirts that read "Hali 16" on the back. Radio station WARM 103.3 had signs made for both nights that said "Go Hali" on them, and after only making 100 for Tuesday night's swim, the business had 200 more made for Wednesday night's festivities.
"Most of these people have known her since she was a little girl and when she first went into a pool," WARM 103.3 program director and afternoon personality Dave Russell said. "...A lot of the people here have watched her from the beginning, and for them to be able to come out tonight and see this journey that she's been on in the Olympics is amazing."
Flickinger's unlikely journey from small-town Spring Grove to swimming's grandest stage no doubt brought the entire Spring Grove and York County communities together.
Whenever she returns home for the first time, she'll receive a hero's welcome because her journey to the Olympics was also the entire town's journey.
"What an adventure (it's been)," said Rick Beck, whose two daughters, Lindsay and Shelby, swam with Hali for the Spring Grove Swim Club. "Thanks for taking us along for the ride."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org