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Raleigh Swimmer Hits Olympic Trials at 40

Erika Braun
Erika Braun

The U.S. Olympic swimming trials are underway in Omaha, Nebraska, and several North Carolinians have already qualified for the Olympic team headed to London this summer. Among the competitors in the trials' final days will be Raleigh's Erika Braun. She's one of only four swimmers in the country age 40 or older to qualify for the trials.

Isaac-Davy Aronson: Of the approximately 150 people who'll compete in the 50-meter freestyle on Sunday, only 2 will go to London. Erika Braun says those two will need times in the 24-second range. Braun's best time is 26.32 seconds. That might not sound like a big difference, but:

Erika Braun: My chances are probably pretty slim. It comes down to hundreths of a second. My personal goal was to qualify for the Olympic trials, which for a 40-year-old is a pretty good feat.

Braun is one of three women 40 or over to qualify for the trials - one of whom is 45-year-old Dara Torres, the 12-time medalist and veteran of five Olympics. Braun calls Torres an inspiration.

This is Braun's second Olympic trial, but it's been a while. She competed in the swimming trials for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when she was 16. But after going to the University of Georgia on a swimming scholarship, she left the water for 12 years. She says she thought her swimming career was over, until, 8 years ago, she started training for a triathlon.

Erika Braun: Within the first month and a half, I did my first swim meet and never looked back. And I've yet to do that triathlon.

She's now swimming faster than she did as a teenager and her goal at the trials is to achieve a personal best time. And this isn't even her full-time job, she's the director of human resources at restaurant chain Golden Corral. She credits her colleagues and her husband for their unflagging support.

Erika Braun: The only thing I do miss is that I love my sleep, and I've been getting less sleep with getting up at 4 a.m. to train. So that's the only thing I'd say I really had to sacrifice is a little sleep.

Braun qualified for the trials last month in Chapel Hill. Now she'll go up against the best swimmers in the country.

Erika Braun: It's an honor. It's exciting. And I'm just thrilled to be able to see these swimmers finish their races and see the accomplishments and all the hard work that they've put in.

Braun competes in the 50-meter freestyle in Omaha on Sunday.

Isaac-Davy Aronson is WUNC's morning news producer and can frequently be heard on air as a host and reporter. He came to North Carolina in 2011, after several years as a host at New York Public Radio in New York City. He's been a producer, newscaster and host at Air America Radio, New York Times Radio, and Newsweek on Air.
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