Torri Huske used the extra Olympic year to become one of the U.S.’ fastest swimmers

Torri Huske
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Torri Huske, an 18-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, is one of the faces of a teenage movement in the pool.

A school of young talent could break through at the Olympic Trials next month, many benefiting from Tokyo’s one-year postponement and an extra 364 days to gain on older collegians and professionals.

At the end of 2019, Huske, then a high school junior, ranked fourth in the nation in the 100m butterfly, eighth in the 200m individual medley and outside the top 10 in her other events across all ages.

This year, Huske is fastest in the 50m freestyle and 100m free (though Simone Manuel had faster times in 2019), second in the 100m fly, fourth in the 200m free and 200m IM and fifth in the 200m fly. The top two finishers per individual race at Trials make the team, plus likely four more each in the 100m and 200m frees for relays.

“I was afraid that she would be feeling fatigued, mentally and physically,” from the extra year of training, said Huske’s mom, Ying. “It turned out it’s better for her.”

Huske’s swim story begins with her mom, a native of Guangzhou, China, who moved to the U.S. in 1991. Ying was an architect in her birth nation — and designed 30-story buildings, husband Jim boasts.

But she wanted to pursue a different career and could not.

“The government paid for our tuition, and they basically owned us,” Ying said. “I came [to the U.S.] for a better life, better opportunities and a better life for my future family.”

She followed friends and family who immigrated, enrolling in graduate school. First at Ohio State, then Virginia Tech, studying urban planning and then transportation engineering. She later taught herself computer engineering and information technology.

“She can solve problems like nobody’s business,” said Jim, whom she married in 2000. “Torri’s mind is similar to her mom’s.”

Ying swam in China and even more in the States, though never competitively. Jim swears she was in the pool on Dec. 6, 2002. The next day, Victoria — “Torri” — was born.

The Huskes put their only child in classes for taekwondo, art, ice skating, tap dancing and ballet. And swimming, though it didn’t look like the sport for a girl who was among the smallest in her grade.

“Part of the reason I didn’t like it was just because I was always cold,” Huske said. “I used to wear a wetsuit to practice because I was always shivering.”

Ying kept swimming, and so did Torri after initially balking at classes. An instructor encouraged mother and daughter to race each other.

“Torri was faster than me when she was 8 or 9 years old,” said Ying, who has visited China with her family three times and documents Huske’s swimming on a YouTube channel with more than 300 videos. “I was able to win against her in the breaststroke, but pretty soon she just beat me in everything.”

A decade ago, coach Evan Stiles noticed a group of about 30 swimmers in the 7- and 8-year age group at Arlington Aquatic Club. Huske stood out, because she was the one in a wetsuit. Stiles can’t recall anybody else wearing one in practices in his 28 years at AAC.

“She was so small and tiny that the water was so cold that she had to wear this wetsuit kind of thing just so she wouldn’t freeze to death while she was swimming,” he said.

Huske shed the wetsuit. Her potential began showing. Though, as Stiles put it, she was still “teeny-tiny.”

Huske joined Stiles’ group in her early teens while she steadily grew. He has been her club coach ever since.

“It’s not like she’s been this prodigy since day one,” Stiles said. “She had to work hard as a younger kid to get caught up to where all the bigger kids her age were.”

Huske also competed all four years for Yorktown High School, where 1996 and 2000 Olympic 400m IM champion Tom Dolan also swam and studied.

Torin Ortmayer took the Yorktown head coaching job in October 2017, one month before the start of Huske’s freshman season.

“One of the families reached out to me and said, hey, we’ve got a special swimmer coming,” Ortmayer said.

Later that winter, Ortmayer remembered Huske looking nervous before facing Virginia stars Cassidy Bayer, a senior, and Lexi Cuomo, a junior, in the 100 butterfly at the state championships. Both swam at the Olympic Trials two years earlier, with Bayer placing third in the 200m fly and just missing the Olympic team at age 16.

“I said, Torri, everybody’s Cassidy Bayer at this point,” Ortmayer remembered. “You’ve got to be able to measure up with these kids now if that’s where you want to be. She just kind of looked at me and was like, OK, and walked away and then went on to beat both of them.”

Ortmayer said he never saw Huske lose an individual event competing for the Patriots, including winning all eight of her state championships finals and leading the program to a team title this past season.

In summer 2019, Huske broke a 38-year-old national age group record in the 100m butterfly held by Olympic gold medalist Mary T. Meagher. After winning five golds at the world junior championships (three in relays), she and Ortmayer, who is also her strength coach, incorporated a strength training program.

They believed it would help her against older professional swimmers, who had years of conditioning programs at major universities, at the following year’s Olympic Trials.

In December 2019, Huske won the 100m butterfly at the U.S. Open on the eve of her 17th birthday. The field included Kelsi Dahlia, the top American in the event since 2015.

“Everything was about the 100m butterfly,” Ortmayer said. “It was all in on the 100m fly, and we’ll try our best with the other events that she was qualified for [at Trials].”

Everything changed in March 2020. Pools closed. The Olympics were postponed one year.

Huske, a straight-A student who will be a Stanford Cardinal, got bored as her classes went virtual. Her father called around, begging for a place to swim. She was stuck at home with her two cats, Cupcake and Truffles, and tried to relearn how to crochet.

So she took conditioning to another level, hopping on a stationary bike and a rowing machine in the basement for 45 minutes each in the morning. Then repeating it in the afternoon. She trained on a power tower, ran hills and hiked with friends and exhausted herself with battle ropes.

After two months out of the pool, the Huskes found a homeowner in Gainesville, a 45-minute drive from Arlington, with a 42-foot backyard pool. For a month and a half, Huske and her father commuted several mornings per week. Torri gave thanks by baking, bringing over lemon bars and brownies. (Stiles said Huske also draws her own thank-you cards and gives them to coaches.)

Huske alternated between training with a bungee cord, anchored by her dad sitting on deck, and trying to swim laps in a pool one-eighth the size of what they have at the Olympics. She made it three strokes before reaching the opposite wall, dizzying herself.

“The waves were knocking her back and forth,” said Wayne Lloyd, who with wife Mary owns the house. “I said, I know of a longer pool.”

Lloyd flew a drone to find another pool in the neighborhood that was uncovered. This one was 50 feet. The homeowner obliged. Huske spent a month there before AAC reopened last summer.

“She could take four, five, six strokes, and that was really, really nice,” her dad said. “People have been so giving and wonderful to Torri to help her make it.”

The modified exercise worked. In April, Huske lowered her personal bests in the 50m free, 100m free and 100m fly all by more than a half-second.

She is now back in a more normal training environment and focused on the Olympic Trials, though she’s had trouble finding larger, Olympic-size pools.

Huske hasn’t been in a classroom in 14 months, but last fall and winter completed Advanced Placement college-level classes online in environmental science, statistics, literature, Spanish and art (where her concentration was on water, submitting photos of her work virtually for grading).

Fifteen months ago, Huske could not have imagined missing her June 2021 high school graduation for an Olympic Trials. Nor being a contender to make the Olympic team in several races.

“We thought there was an outside chance in one event,” to make the Olympic team had the Games been held in 2020, Jim Huske said. “Everything’s come together.”

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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