Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gabrielle Rose won't swim in the Olympics. The 46-year-old wanted something bigger

Gabrielle Rose pauses before the Women's 100 breaststroke preliminary heat Sunday, June 16, 2024, at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.
Michael Conroy
/
AP
Gabrielle Rose pauses before the Women's 100 breaststroke preliminary heat Sunday, June 16, 2024, at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.

When Gabrielle Rose walked from poolside to talk with reporters in Indianapolis, the veteran Brazilian American swimmer was grinning and crying at the same time.

The 46-year-old, who grew up in Memphis and competed later for Stanford University, posted the best race times of her life in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, beating athletes half her age to advance to the semifinals.

It wasn't enough to win a spot on the elite U.S. Olympic swim team going to Paris. But it was more than strong enough to make a statement by the oldest competitor at these trials.

"It's just a really, really special feeling to be embraced by so many," Rose said of her age-defying performance.

Rose last competed in the Olympics at the 1996 Atlanta Games for Brazil. She then swam for the U.S. in 2000 at the Sydney Summer Games. She failed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 2004.

Her decision to race one more time in the 2024 pre-Olympic competition, which wrapped up on Sunday, came last spring after Rose surprised herself by posting a personal-best time in a breaststroke masters race.

That led to a 13-month training and competition regimen that culminated at the Indianapolis trials.

"I have loved this experience of doing this," Rose said of her performance in Indianapolis. "I'm so proud of myself."

 Gabrielle Rose, age 46, posted personal best times and won two preliminary heats in Indianapolis racing against swimmers half her age.
NPR / Brian Mann
/
Brian Mann
Gabrielle Rose, age 46, posted personal best times and won two preliminary heats in Indianapolis racing against swimmers half her age.

Rose used her platform in Indianapolis to urge other women to embrace health and athleticism as they age.

“I want women in particular to not be afraid to be strong, to lift weights, to take care of themselves and just know that they can have a lot more in the older chapters of their lives," Rose told reporters.

Many U.S. swimmers describe the pre-Olympics trials as tougher and more grueling than the Olympics themselves.

Generally, only the two top swimmers in each of 28 swimming disciplines make Team USA.

This year's competition was particularly fierce, with athletes toppling two world records and one American record.

That level of athleticism meant Rose was always a longshot to make the team that will compete next month in Paris.

Asked about her goals in this competition, Rose said her focus was personal:

"I knew I was capable of something great and it wasn't about making the team, I just wanted to do my personal best," Rose told reporters.

"I feel like a different person. I'm a mom, I have other things going on, a different perspective on life, appreciating it, and having more fun than ever."

Asked what's next, Rose said she plans to get back to "real life," which includes parenting her 9-year-old daughter Annie and coaching swimmers in California.

"Knowing my daughter was out in the audience, my daughter Annie, and just hearing the crowd, that was really really moving," she said.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.