Former IU swimmer seizes dream in London

The only part of the race she remembers is walking out with her teammates, purposely averting her gaze from the stands so she would not see the crowd of spectators about to watch her swim.  

Margaux Farrell, a 2012 IU graduate, was about to live her lifelong dream of swimming in the Olympics, participating in the 4X200-meter freestyle relay for France.

“I had so much adrenaline,” Farrell said. “The race was a blur, and there were too many emotions to digest.”

Many children dream of becoming Olympians, but not all are willing
to endure hours of training and sacrifice extracurricular activities to reach that goal.

When Farrell came to IU from Woodbridge, Conn., in 2008, the Olympics had been a dream of hers, she said, but they were not an initial goal.

Her freshman year of college, Farrell failed to place in the top 40 at the NCAA Championships in both the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events.

“Freshman year was tough,” Farrell said. “It was hard adjusting to collegiate training and also making the transition from high school to college.”

Earning her first individual Big Ten title in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:45.32 as a sophomore, the Connecticut native began to make a name for herself within the IU swimming program.

She went on to set the school record in the same event only four weeks later at the NCAA Championships.

Farrell was then presented an opportunity to swim at the 2010 LEN European Championships in the 4X200 freestyle relay. She and her relay team finished in second place.

“After I made the European Championship team in 2010, I realized for the first time that I had a chance (at making the Olympics),” Farrell said.

For Farrell, making the Olympic team for France was the ultimate goal during her senior season.

While the other swimmers began tapering for the Big Ten Conference Championships, Farrell and IU Coach Ray Looze decided to keep the intensity of her workouts high.

Three weeks after the Big Ten Championships, Farrell competed in 10 races in three days.

She swam at the NCAA Championships in Auburn, Ala., where she said she was upset by her less-than-desirable times. Farrell then flew to New York and then to Belgium, where she drove two hours to Dunkirk, France.

“I went into the French Olympic Trials with a lower morale,” Farrell said. “Actually at the meet, I didn’t think I would make it.”

Farrell swam in multiple events in the trials, and she made the finals of the 200 freestyle, the qualifying event for the 4X200 freestyle relay.

In the finals, she finished in fifth place. Though she did not automatically qualify for the team, she was near certain she would make the team as an alternate.

“The wait was pretty nerve-racking, even though I was pretty sure I’d be selected,” Farrell said. “I didn’t want to count my eggs before they hatched.”

She eventually found out at a Chicago airport with IU teammates junior Eric Ress and sophomore Justine Ress she had officially made the team.

After the French Olympic Trials in March, Farrell began having back issues. She had cortisone-type medicines injected to get her through the random flare-ups, all the while preparing for her Olympic opportunity.

When she arrived in London, a doctor concluded that the issues with Farrell’s vertebrae were caused by tendonitis running down her leg.

Despite her volatile medical state, Farrell decided she would swim no matter what.

“There were days I couldn’t walk and had to be on bed rest,” Farrell said. “It was just a two-minute race. For those two minutes, I just had to go as hard as I could.”

Farrell swam second that day in her team’s rotation and had a split of 2:00.06 in the preliminary round. France finished third in the heat and fifth overall, as Farrell helped her team qualify for the night’s finals.

Though she did not swim in the finals, she still was awarded an Olympic medal as France won bronze in the night’s race.

Overcoming her hardships, through travel and health issues alike, Farrell was finally an Olympic medalist.

“This whole experience has been pretty surreal,” Farrell said. “I haven’t fully grasped the fact that I am now an Olympic medalist.”

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