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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Sydney Pickrem looks toward Tokyo 2020

Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker

Pickrem helped A&M finish in third place at the NCAA Championships.

An American by birth and a Canadian by blood, kinesiology sophomore Sydney Pickrem is well traveled after swimming in several events for Canada during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Pickrem was born in Tampa Bay, Florida but has strong ties to Canada — most of her family lives in Nova Scotia, and her dad Darren, was in the Montreal Canadiens organization; similar to how one of last year’s baseball draftees are part of their teams’ organization. Pickrem acquired dual-citizenship when she was 14, after one of her club coaches found out that her parents were Canadian and she has been swimming for Canada ever since.
Instead of leaving early to swim in the Olympic Trials for Canada, Pickrem stuck out the rest of her season with her team and head coach Steve Bultman, and the continued training paid off.
“Our trials are actually a bit earlier than the States,” Pickrem said. “It’s actually right after our NCAA’s, so kind of back-to-back meets — SEC’s, NCAA’s and then Olympic Trials were right there. And I knew that going into my college career, but I decided to stick with NCAA and kind of do all three and I knew Steve would make it work.”
In swimming the last meets of the 2016 season, Pickrem won the SEC title in the 400-meter individual medley, earned First Team All-American Honors for the 200 individual medley, 400-meter individual medley and the Aggies’ 800-meter free relay at the 2016 NCAA Championships. On top of all that, she qualified for Rio in the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter individual medley, taking down the record holder in the 400-meter, Emily Overholt.
Following the Olympic trials, Pickrem and the rest of the team spent time in a training camp in Toronto before eventually leaving for Brazil nearly two weeks before the events.
When Pickrem swam in the Games for Canada, she placed sixth in the 200-meter individual medley finals and 12th in the 400-meter individual medleys. She said she was initially disappointed with her times, but after talking with her dad, he helped put her races in perspective.
“For me, I don’t think I’ll ever do well enough,” Pickrem said of her performance in Rio. “That’s my personality, that’s how I’ve always been, that’s how I get better … I had to take a step back and it never happened until after I was done with the Games, thinking I could reflect on it all. My dad told me, ‘You just swam in the pool with the best eight swimmers in the world in your event.’”
Despite her finishes, Pickrem said she enjoyed being in Rio and learned a lot about other sports while being surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world.
“It was pretty unreal,” Pickrem said. “I’ve been in village setting before, but then again when you come to it people say, there’s nothing like the Olympic Games and it’s true … and you’ve all already reached this goal of being an Olympian and being able to share that with the hundreds of people that you’re surrounded by is pretty amazing.”
Now that Pickrem is back in College Station and fully recovered from an injury she sustained, she’s once again surrounded by teammates like sophomore Claire Rasmus, her training partner.
Rasmus said she was proud of her best friend for competing in the Rio Games. Rasmus even had to hang up on a call from her mom to livestream one of Pickrem’s races during the Olympics.
“I’m so proud of her,” Rasmus said. “I know how hard she works everyday, so to see her accomplish one of those goals that she’s always had, is always a nice feeling.”
Bultman said Pickrem is in a spot to improve her swims and if she does, a medal isn’t out of the question.
“I think she’s definitely got a shot to do that,” Bultman said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of other people that are working for that too, but I think she’s in a good position — she knows the things she needs to work on and some of the things we’re working on right now.”
Pickrem has taken to heart a piece of advice from associate head coach Tanica Jamison as she continues to push herself with plans to compete in Tokyo in 2020.
“Don’t make that same mistake,” Pickrem said in regards to how she swam in Rio. “That’s the one thing that our assistant coach Tanica always would tell me is, ‘You take your mistakes, you realize them and not a lot of swimmers do, and then you’re not going to make them again.’ ”
Before Tokyo in 2020, Pickrem will have to finish out the 2017 season and the SEC Championships — which Pickrem is competing in this weekend — building on her swims from Rio over the summer. This season, Pickrem picked up where she left off — posting individual wins in the 200-meter breaststroke and backstroke in two separate meets alongside a few top-three finishes in other meets.  
When it does come time for the Tokyo Games, Pickrem has one goal: to have a medal around her neck in 2020.
“That’s the thing is people always say the Olympics is a dream, but for me it’s just a goal,” Pickrem said. “And it was kind of the right step in the path at the time, so we’ll take it year by year … Everything’s going to be preparation toward it. I want to get there and I want to get on that podium.”

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