Hali Flickinger's Olympic success inspires York-area swimmers
The bronze medals Hali Flickinger won at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be recorded in history, but her impact could be felt for years to come.
Each of the three nights Flickinger competed against the best swimmers in the world, family, friends and fans filed into Spring Grove Area Middle School to cheer her on.
A pair of young swimmers were watching.
“It encouraged me to keep going and push myself," said sixth-grader Addy Daily. "If she can do it, I can do it.”
Daily swims for the same Spring Grove Swim Club and York YMCA teams that Flickinger was on years ago. She remembers watching the Olympian at the 2016 Rio games, where she finished seventh in the 200-meter butterfly event.
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While Daily and her teammates prepared for their own races that day, they watched Flickinger’s 400-meter individual medley preliminary heat and celebrated before their own competition with a drive to dominate like the star from their home town.
Another local swimmer much closer to a potential run at the Olympics was also in attendance for each of Flickinger’s bronze medal moments.
Spring Grove rising senior Daniel Gordon and his parents are close with Flickinger’s family, so he has had the chance to talk with Flickinger and to see her train. He took a trip to the International Swimming League finals and met the Spring Grove star swimmer before getting to see her in action.
“It definitely gives us hope in our dreams — I think it's very awesome,” Gordon said. “I know it wasn't easy to get there. She put a lot of hard work in, trained really hard, and I'm hoping to do the same thing."
Gordon is committed to swim at the University of Florida and has his own Olympic aspirations, which Flickinger’s success had made seem more possible.
"We've been putting a lot of hard work in," he said, "and knowing that she came from the same program, it just goes to show that if I continue to follow through and work hard that it might be possible for me one day.”
In the moments right after she claimed a bronze medal in the 200 fly, Flickinger expressed disappointment because of the high standards she set for herself in the event. Meanwhile in her hometown, her family, friends and fans cheered like she had won gold.
While the signs posted around town will soon come down and t-shirts printed with Flickinger's name on them will be put into drawers, the memories of seeing someone like them have success on the biggest stage will never be forgotten for the kids that look up to Flickinger.
For Daily and Gordon, it serves as motivation to make sure these types of watch parties happen every four years and have the same impact on young Spring Grove swimmers with them on the Olympic stage.
“She just encourages me to do things that I thought I never could have done as a child,” Daily said. “When I'm older, hopefully kids are gonna feel the same way.”
— Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.