FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – More than a thousand young swimmers in Fresno cheered on the youngest American Olympian in Tokyo on Friday.
The Sandpipers of Las Vegas rooted for one of their own poolside at Clovis North High School. The Arena Western Zone Meet paused briefly for athletes to watch 15-year-old Katie Grimes on the big screen.
“Katie was here three years ago and was one of these kids that we see in the background here,” Jake Des Roches a senior coach for the Sandpipers said.
Des Roches worked with event host the Clovis Swim Club to turn the competition into a massive watch party.
“We’re going to stop the meet and we’re all going to watch. We’re going to run it on our scoreboard, so we’re all going to be able to watch her swim her event and cheer her on and we’re super excited about that,” said Shawn Fleming, the meet director for Clovis Swim Club.
Grimes competed in the same meet in 2018 when she was 12 years old.
“A lot of the kids here know her. A lot of the athletes have competed against her, we’ve been cheering her on. So we all watched her at Olympic trials, we all saw that she made the cut and we’ve been just cheering for her ever since,” Fleming said.
Roughly 1,200 athletes from nine different states looked on as Grimes placed fourth in the Olympic final of the women’s 800m freestyle.
Des Roches said even without medaling Grimes is an inspiration.
“To be able to see a race of someone [and say] ‘Hey I know that team or she swam here,’ provides that personal connection to really what’s the end dream of swimming or any Olympic sport is to be there, and not everyone is going to make it there, but being a part of that is something so so powerful for the kids,” he said.
Des Roches said this is the first time they’ve ever had an active team member at the Olympics.