Olympic dreams come true for Bainbridge swimmer

Emily Silver, a 2004 graduate of BHS and the only swimmer in state history to win four straight state titles in the 50 and 100 freestyle, made the Olympic team with her fifth place finish in the 100 freestyle at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.  - Review file photo
Emily Silver, a 2004 graduate of BHS and the only swimmer in state history to win four straight state titles in the 50 and 100 freestyle, made the Olympic team with her fifth place finish in the 100 freestyle at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.
— image credit: Review file photo

Bainbridge High School girls’ swim coach Greg Colby remembers a time several years ago when members of the Bainbridge Island Swim Club posted their goals on the bulletin board down at the swim center.

He took notice of 10-year-old Emily Silver’s goal, which declared her intent to make it to the Olympics one day.

Twelve years later, that goal is now a reality.

Silver, 22, qualified over the weekend for the United States Olympic swimming team at the Olympic trials at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.

The 2004 BHS graduate made it with her fifth-place finish in the 100 meter freestyle with a time of 54.91.

The top six in the 50 and 100 freestyle qualify for the team.

Silver was confirmed Sunday night as a member of the 4x100 relay team.

According to Colby, it’s the first time anyone from the BHS swim team has made it onto the Olympic swim team.

“It was phenomenal,” said Bob Silver, her father. “We had a phenomenal experience at the trials.

“It was very emotional for us but even more so for her,” he continued. “It proved that all the hard work she’s done since she was eight” was worth it.

“I don’t think you can really put words around it.”

Silver, who was entered in four events, took part in the 100 butterfly last Sunday.

She finished 41st overall, but her time of 1:00.94 was a personal record, according to Silver.

“She said she felt great,” he said.

In the 200 freestyle, Silver posted a time of 2:01.89 to finish in a tie for 44th overall, but Colby said she didn’t swim all that well.

But the 100 freestyle, an event she’s had much success in during her career, turned into a roller coaster of emotions for all involved.

Silver made it to the semifinals, then took fourth in her semifinal heat. Afterward, she had to wait it out for the other heat to finish, as five women had to better her time to knock her out of the top eight.

“She was very nervous she wouldn’t make it,” Bob said.

But only three finished with better times than she did, enabling her to take seventh overall.

During lunch the next day, Bob said Emily felt “very, very confident” she would make the team.

“She was in lane 1 which is a good lane,” he said.

After the first 50 meters, Silver was in fourth, but fell to seventh at the 75 meter mark.

But she came on strong in the last 25 meters to overtake Julia Smit and Kara Lynn Joyce for fifth and a trip to Beijing.

Her former teammates Jessica Hardy was fourth while Natalie Coughlin was second to four-time Olympian Dara Torres, who touched the wall .05 of a second before she did.

“It just set off an incredible celebration,” Bob said. He, his wife Mary Sue, Colby and a group of parents and swimmers from her team from Cal all made the trip to cheer her on and were overjoyed.

“But Emily’s reaction was really special. She looked to see her place and when she saw fifth, she had the most incredible emotional reaction,” Silver continued.

“She put her head in her hands and started sobbing. Natalie (Coughlin) came over and celebrated with her.”

But the good times were tempered somewhat when it was revealed that Silver had broken her hand during the semifinals of the 50 freestyle. She took 12th overall.

The injury occurred when she took an extra stroke and hit the wall hard with her right hand, causing spiral fractures in her index and middle finger.

It’s the third time Silver has broken a hand during a swim.

There was some question whether she would be replaced, but Bob said the injury won’t derail her from heading to Beijing.

“I talked to Emily (Monday at Stanford Medical Center) and she’s in great spirits,” he said. “She’s very eager to get surgery done.”

Bob said they did surgery on Tuesday to put pins in to hold the bone where the fractures are, then put her in a waterproof cast.

Silver will be out of the water for a few days, but will still train with the team in Stanford, then head over to Singapore for three weeks.

The team will then travel to Beijing two days before the opening ceremonies.

The 2008 Summer Olympics start Aug. 8 and run through Aug. 22. The swimming events take place Aug. 9-21 at the Beijing National Aquatics Center.

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