To represent your country as and Olympic swimmer at the Olympic Games is a tremendous honor. How does an athlete become an Olympian? Many athletes begin training when they are children, but some do not start until high school or college. The road to the Olympics is difficult for any athlete, but the rewards are worth the effort and sacrifice. If you are a swimmer with an Olympic dream, this is what you can do to make your dream a reality.

Have Passion: You must love swimming. If you want to be an Olympic swimmer, you will have to spend hours a week training, you will have to enter competitions, and you will have to dedicate a large portion of your life to the sport. If the commitment seems daunting, then perhaps the Olympics are not in your future.

Find a Coach and a Team: A good swim coach will help hone your skills and develop the best overall training program for you. Swimming with a team will help you learn how to compete against others and have good sportsmanlike conduct. A coach and a team will give you support and an environment for you to improve. To make it to the Olympics, you must be willing to constantly work on your swimming technique. A coach can help you select which event or events are your best; focusing on a few events will help you excel in competitions. Also, your coach should know the competitions that will advance your swimming career.

Train: Your training program includes nutrition and doing dryland workouts. Yes, you need to practice swimming—a lot—but a swimmer with an overall routine designed by a coach will have the strength, flexibility, and endurance to make it to the Olympic level.

Become a Member of USA Swimming: In order to be considered for the Olympic team, you must be a member of USA Swimming in good standing. The organization will help you find your Local Swimming Committee. The LSC helps swimmers find local swim clubs and USA Swimming official competitive events. To qualify for the Olympic Trials, you have to beat the Olympic time established by FINA at an event recognized by FINA, and USA Swimming will have the information a swimmer needs to meet all the requirements for making the Olympic team.

Compete: Competing at FINA-approved events will give you many opportunities to qualify for an invitation to the Olympic Trials. Also, the more you compete in international events, the more experience you will get. Nerves can be a swimmer’s enemy, so the more you compete, the more you will get used to the international competitive environment.

Finish at the Top of the Olympic Trials: To make the United States Olympic Team, swimmers must finish in the top two spots in the finals of the Olympic Trials.

If you have the drive, then by following these tips, you could be one of the 26 men or 26 women who make the United States Olympic Swim Team.