TOKYO, Japan (WCMH) — He’s a kid from rural Ohio who is now swimming with the world’s best.
Ohio State University swimmer Hunter Armstrong surprised everyone, including himself, when he made the Olympic team. And now, he’s dreaming of gold.
It’s still a moment Armstrong can’t find the words for.
“Honestly, words can’t describe it,” he said. “I guess surreal would be the best word, but I mean, it’s just, I never thought it would happen this soon.”
Armstrong’s rise to Olympian is hard to explain. He never won a state championship when swimming at Dover High School, and he hasn’t won a Big Ten championship while at Ohio State, so you can understand his modest expectations at the Olympic trials.
“I just wanted to go there and have fun because every one says your first trials is the hardest because of the emotional energy,” he said. “It’s more of an experience meet. So I went and seeing it as experience and it came out much more than that.”
That’s an understatement. Armstrong swam a personal best, securing his spot in Tokyo and in the conversation for a medal.
“I’m not going in with that pressure,” he said. “I find the more pressure that I put on myself, the worst I perform. I achieved so much more than I thought capable of this year. I’m just excited to go and represent the United States and be a part of the backstroke legacy.”
No matter how he finishes, Armstrong knows he’s earned a lot of fans in Dover, Columbus, and beyond. And being an inspiration for others may mean more than a gold medal.
“It was the coolest feeling ever,” Armstrong said. “I left the pool after the 100 back and they were a bunch of little kids outside and I signed my first autograph and I got a picture taken and I’m like, ‘This is my life now and I do not want to disappoint them.’”
Armstrong is still two big swims away from winning a gold medal. First up, he has to survive the semifinals, which you can watch in primetime, right here on NBC 4 tonight.