Emma Chard’s mother, Gill, used to swim in the frigid lochs of her native Scotland.
Emma’s grandfather did as well, so making waves is a long-held family tradition.
That hearty athleticism and love of water got passed down to Emma, and with it came a more tangible legacy affecting her own swimming career.
Her mother’s nationality allowed Chard to swim in the British Swimming Championship/Olympic Trials in April, a nice tuneup for her appearance Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Foss High and Tacoma Swim Club product didn’t make the UK team, but now gets a shot to make the U.S. team for the Rio Games in the 200-meter freestyle.
Chard’s career is on the rise; she won three Mountain West Conference titles (200, 400 and 800 freestyle) for Boise State this spring.
She’s a long shot to make the team going to Rio. But at 20, she’s still in the early stages of her competitive development.
Chard’s BSU coach Jeremy Kipp called the sophomore “the new kid on the block.”
“After having such a big season, this marks the next big phase for her and will set her up well for the next two years,” Kipp says on the Boise State women’s swim team website.
Chard qualified for the U.S. trials just two weeks ago at the Summer Sanders meet in California. “Her time would have qualified top eight at the British trials, so this could set her up to be part of the British international teams in the future.”
The advantages of dual citizenship arise for athletes every four years. According to a Pew Research Center study, 120 athletes in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics competed for nations other than the country of their birth.
Chard failed to advance to the finals in the trials in Glasgow, but the experience was invaluable, and helped prep her for the fast 200 at the Sanders meet that earned her the spot in the U.S. trials.
“They’re still really fast, but I would say that swimming in the UK isn’t the same level as the U.S., so the chances of me (finishing) well are way higher over there,” she said.
Scottish swimmers are part of the British contingent to the Rio Olympics. But the Scots will have their own team for the Commonwealth Games in two years, and Chard sees a good chance of making that squad.
That Chard is competing at this level is already a bit of an upset, as she considers herself something of a late-bloomer in the sport.
“I probably didn’t start getting fast until my sophomore year in high school,” she said. “When I was younger, I had no idea what college swimming was or how hard it was to make the Olympics. It took a while for me to start to realize maybe I had a shot at continuing this collegiately and maybe into the future as well.”
She claimed a state title in the 100-meter freestyle for Foss, and continued to grow as a collegiate threat at Boise State. As she looks around at other high-level swimmers, and the rate of burnout she sees, she thinks her belated development in the sport might have a benefit.
“Maybe it was a good thing because I still love swimming and don’t want to stop ever, really,” she said. “My mind is still fresh about swimming and that makes it more enjoyable to me. A lot of people I’ve known who were really good don’t swim anymore and that’s sad to see.”
Asked about swimmers she admired, perhaps role models or athletes to emulate, Emma Chard came up with a unique answer: Her 15-year-old brother Evan, a swimmer himself.
“He is just now starting to get quite good, and I hope I can be a role model for him,” she said. “He expects me to do well, so I want to show him how hard work pays off if you just keep trying.”
There’s value in that message. No matter the country in which you’re swimming.
Dave Boling: @DaveBoling