Hali Flickinger 'disappointed' but still bringing home second medal from Tokyo Olympics

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports

Hali Flickinger is now a two-time Olympic medalist, but she will leave Tokyo unsatisfied.

The Spring Grove High School graduate won the bronze medal Wednesday night in the women's 200-meter butterfly at the Tokyo Summer Games and was proud to add to the country's medal count, but she had higher hopes headed into the race she was projected to win.

"It's just it was nowhere close to a swim that I'm capable of doing, but like I said, we get to stand up on the podium and represent the U.S., and that's really all that matters," Flickinger told USA Swimming after the event.

She also won a bronze medal in the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday night.

Flickinger was rooted on by a watch party featuring family and friends at Spring Grove Middle School.

China's Zhang Yufei entered the final as the No. 1 seed from the semifinals and won the gold medal, leading from start to finish in a dominating performance. She posted an Olympic-record time of 2 minutes, 3.96 seconds.

American Regan Smith nipped Flickinger at the finish to win the silver medal. Smith finished in 2:05.30 and Flickinger finished in a personal-best time of 2:05.65.

Flickinger said she did pay attention to Zhang's speed but just wasn't able to catch up to the Chinese swimmer's elite performance in the final.

"I tried to pace off her, (but) she swam a great race, and there's nothing I could control about that," Flickinger said. "I'm just disappointed in how I did, but like I said, we did get two medals."

Hali Flickinger, of the United States, swims in the women's 200-meter butterfly final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Previous accomplishments: The 27-year-old Flickinger finished seventh in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The medals from Flickinger and Smith ended a drought for the U.S. in the event that lasted since Misty Hyman won gold in 2000.

The former University of Georgia standout has seen her performances improve since moving her training to Arizona to work under well-known coach Bob Bowman, who had previously mentored Olympic legend Michael Phelps. Flickinger has also received some help from Phelps.

With a pair of bronze medals at the Tokyo Olympics, Flickinger has now won awards at each level of swimming she has competed in.

While swimming for York YMCA, Flickinger won national championships in 2011 and 2012. At Georgia, she won NCAA titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016. In the first season of the International Swimming League, Flickinger's Cali Condors won the title in 2019.

Flickinger was looking to become the first York County Olympic gold medalist since Dover’s Scott Strausbaugh triumphed in the two-man canoe slalom with partner Joe Jacobi at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

Making York County history: This year, Flickinger became the first York County swimmer to earn an Olympic medal since Robert Sohl earned a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 1948. 

Flickinger is the first York County athlete to win two medals in a single Olympics. She's also the first county athlete to win two Olympic medals since weightlifter Tony Terlazzo won a gold in 1936 and a bronze in 1932 in the featherweight division.

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Winning a bronze medal is nothing to be disappointed by, but Flickinger's high expectations made the result less than she hoped for. She didn't finish higher than third in either event, but her country took two medals in each of her races and she was at least proud to help the team.

"I was able to stand up and swim for our country, and there's nothing better than that," Flickinger said. "We're coming home with a medal, both silver and bronze, so that's exciting."

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com. Steve Heiser contributed to this report.