Henry Bethel spent most of the two months prior to a swimming meet in Orlando, Florida, earlier this month out of the water with either sickness or injury.
Neither could slow him down.
Bethel, soon to be a Dalton High School graduate and already a qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Team swimming trials in the 100-meter breaststroke, hit the cut for another event for the trials, shaving two seconds off his personal best time for the 200-meter individual medley. He'll compete at the trials next month in Omaha, Nebraska.
"I was pretty sick, but it wasn't COVID or the flu. We thought it might be a relapse of mono." Bethel said. "Then I had a shoulder injury. I've come off of the strangest few months of swimming that I've ever had. I performed better than I really expected, based on how the previous months had gone."
Bethel's qualification is for the wave one competition at the trails. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the trials are split into two waves. The top two performers in wave one in each event advance to compete with the qualifiers in wave two. Then, the Olympic team will be selected from wave two performance.
Bethel said he could possibly make it to wave two, but says it's a longshot to make it on to the U.S. roster for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which are in July and August in Tokyo after being postponed due to COVID-19 last year.
"This is more about experience and trying to finish as highly in the standings as I can and try to prepare for the next cycles three and seven years from now," Bethel said.
Bethel qualified in the 100-meter breaststroke at an event in November. He bested his already-qualifying time at the Orlando meet earlier this month as he qualified for the second event.
"Those are definitely my two best events," Bethel said. "During high school events, those were the ones that I competed in. I'm pretty well-rounded, but those are the two that I have the most confidence in."
Bethel had enough of that confidence to envision himself competing in the Olympic trials at an early age.
"Honestly, it's about where I thought I'd be, growing up," Bethel said. "It's something where I made up my mind I wanted to be the best. I've always set really high goals for myself. Since I was about 15, it was very clear that I planned to be at Olympic trials this summer."