Did Caroline Bruce swim competitively after the 2004 Olympics? Was she at this year’s Olympic Trials?
Just months after graduating from Trinity Academy, Wichita’s Caroline Bruce grabbed a spot on the 2004 United States Olympic team by finishing second in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Olympic Trials in Long Beach, Calif.
“I can’t really explain what I’m feeling like,” said Bruce at the time, then 18. “Kind of overwhelmed joy.”
She is the most recent native Wichitan to reach the Olympics and the only Olympian in the last 20 years.
While Bruce didn’t medal in Athens that year, the Olympics weren’t her last big swim meet.
Bruce, whose married name is McAndrew, entered Stanford that fall and had an excellent collegiate swimming career.
“I think the Olympics helped me a lot in my NCAA career, it helped me stay calm and know that each meet is just another meet and that I shouldn’t let the ‘status’ of the meet overwhelm me,” she told The Eagle in a written interview.
She was the NCAA champion in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke in 2005 and received All-America honors 13 times in her career.
“Making the Olympic team is a very individual achievement, while NCAA swimming has much more of a team focus,” she wrote. “I really felt like the Stanford team was depending on me and encouraging me to do my best at NCAAs.”
She swam at the World University Games in 2005 but after swimming with a dislocated shoulder at that meet she had her first surgery on her shoulder shortly afterward.
She missed the 2008 Olympic trials with a second shoulder surgery two weeks before the meet, effectively ending her competitive swim career.
After graduation and an internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee, where she worked with athletes and handled community relations, McAndrew now lives in Sydney with her husband, a former Stanford football player.
She works for a media agency in Australia’s largest city, coincidentally the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics and home to millions of swimming fans.
“It has been really fun to watch the Olympics this year, even more so than in 2008. In 2008 I wanted to be on the team, not watching, but now I am far enough removed that watching it makes me so blessed and thankful for my opportunity to be a part of the Olympic Family just 8 years ago,” she wrote.
“Watching the Olympics in Australia is so different, and a little frustrating. We are so spoiled in the U.S. to watch all the American athletes, here I only get to watch them if they are competing against an Aussie athlete.”
She doesn’t envision herself trying to make a Janet Evans or Dara Torres-like comeback to the sport because of her injuries, but she hadn’t ruled out coaching in the future.
The roughly 9,000-mile difference between Sydney and Wichita doesn’t allow her to make it back to Kansas too frequently.
“But I am the biggest Wichita advocate no matter where I am, I am doing my best to promote Kansas in any way I can, even when I am halfway across the world,” she wrote.
“I was so blessed by the support and love from the Wichita community and honestly can say that it was far greater than any of my other U.S. teammates received from their community. I received many comments from teammates about how impressed they were with the way the Wichita community supported me.”
When was the last time a native Kansan had won any Olympic medal before this week?
Overland Park’s Shannon Vreeland won the first gold medal by an athlete who graduated from a Kansas high school in 12 years when she swam the third leg of the Olympic-record setting 800-meter freestyle relay last week.
Prior to Vreeland the last native Kansans to win golds were Kansas City Schlagle product Maurice Greene, who won twice on the track, and Stilwell’s Tara Nott Cunningham who won in weightlifting; also at the Sydney Games.
Greene attempted to defend his titles in 2004, but came up short, taking the bronze in the 100 meters and a silver as part of the 400 relay team.
Christian Smith, the only Kansas high school graduate in the 2008 Beijing Games, did not medal in the 800.
Leavenworth’s Amy Hastings did not medal in last week’s 10,000 meters, leaving Junction City’s Isiah Young as the state’s last Olympic entrant this week. He’ll run in the 200 meters.