'It doesn't feel real:' 16-year-old from Cary makes US Olympic team for summer games in Tokyo

Joe Mazur Image
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Cary 16-year-old Claire Curzan is living her US Olympic dream
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A 16-year-old girl Claire Curzan of Cary will represent the red, white and blue in Tokyo during the 2021 Olympics.

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Central North Carolina will be represented by at least one athlete in the Tokyo Olympics next month.

Cary native Claire Curzan made the U.S. Olympic team and at 16 years old will be one of the youngest competitors in the games.

"It doesn't feel real honestly," she said. "It's been a dream of mine for so long and to think that I finally achieved it doesn't make sense, kind of."

Curzan, a Cardinal Gibbons High School student, finished second in the 100 butterfly at the U.S. Olympic Trials with a time of 56.43, behind the American record time of 18-year-old Torri Huske (55.66). The top two competitors make the team, putting the rising senior at Cardinal Gibbons in rarified air.

"I always try to win but it was definitely comforting knowing that I just had to do what I've done before. So I was just trying to focus on myself and how I can improve my swim in general. "

After touching the wall and able to zero in on the scoreboard, Curzan saw that magical number next to her name.

"I saw the number two and I was like 'oh my gosh, I did it' and then obviously I celebrated and I hugged Torry and stuff because we made it together."

To celebrate, Curzan enjoyed a hamburger for dinner with her parents and two siblings who are all with her in Omaha.

Curzan is a 6-time North Carolina state champion and owns national high school records in the butterfly. Still, being on the big stage in primetime on national TV did feel a little different.

"I was pretty nervous for finals. I was seeded second which I was happy about," she said. "But just the way they make the whole production it's a little stressful. You're sitting in the ready room and there are all these cameras. From once I dove in to the time I touched the wall I don't really remember."

There is still work left to be done in Omaha as Curzan will compete in both the 100 and 50 freestyle later this week. The top six in the 100 free make the team where she is seeded sixth. The top 2 qualify in the 50.

But she says now all the pressure is off.