Patrick Husson has come a long way since walking on to the UMBC swimming team as a freshman in the fall of 2010. Now, he's one of three Retrievers hoping to compete in his country's Olympic swimming trials for a spot in the Summer Games in London.
Husson will participate in the U.S. trials in June in Omaha, Neb., for a chance to be one of two swimmers to represent his country in the 200-meter breaststroke.
"I have nothing to lose and I'm just having a blast with training and preparing for this meet. I'm excited to go there and swim fast and see a lot of fast swimmers," said Husson, who qualified for the trials just last month.
Husson quit his team at DeMatha and was not recruited to any college for swimming, but he was determined to join the UMBC team.
"I was a walk-on. Originally, [head coach] Chad [Cradock] and [assistant coach] Chris [Gibeau] weren't going to let me on the team, but I worked my butt off during a monthlong trial … and they gave me a spot," he said. "Because they believed in me, I thought I should give back to them. I've trained hard over these last two years, and now I'm going to the Olympic trials."
Husson was named the school's most improved swimmer last year. Since joining the team, he has become "one of [UMBC's] most valuable swimmers in the breaststroke," Cradock said.
To prepare for the trials, Husson has trained with the other Olympic hopefuls, juniors Mohamed Hussein and Pierre De Waal, after the team's season ended in February. "For the past month or so … we've all fed off each other and worked really well. We work out together," De Waal said.
During their practices, Husson drew from the energy of his teammates.
"Working with these guys is amazing," he said. "Think of the hardest-working person you know, and Pierre works twice as hard as that guy. And then Mohamed in practice, even after a tough set, if you put him on the blocks, he'll do something amazing. … Just going to practice, and seeing these guys do times that would have scored in our conference meet at practice, that's pretty amazing."
Hussein has already qualified to swim at the Olympics for Egypt in the 100 freestyle and will attempt to earn spots inmore events next month. He is only the second swimmer in the school's history to make the Games. Last month, Hussein swam the 200 individual medley in2 minutes, 5.49 seconds to break Egypt's record.
"I'm so excited to see all of the fast swimmers [at the Olympics] — to compete with them," he said.
Hussein will have a shot at breaking more records next month.
"If he qualifies for more than one event, he'll be the first Egyptian to qualify for more than one, to swim in more than one," Cradock said.
Hussein transferred to UMBC from Victory College in Egypt in December.
"We made a lot of adjustments," Cradock said. "He's improved a great deal and he ended up being our conference swimmer of the year."
Although he swam only three meets with the Retrievers, he won eight individual events during the regular season and earned three individual gold medals at the America East championships.
De Waal will swim in the South African trials this week to compete for a spot in the 200 butterfly, his strongest event, and the 100, 200 and 400 freestyles. He won three gold medals during the conference meet in February, including one in the 200 fly. With his 1:46.68 finish, De Waal broke meet, pool and UMBC records to beat his competition by more than a second.
"Pierre has been focused on the trials all season. … He's a very dedicated and hard-working athlete," Cradock said.
De Waal is looking forward to competing in South Africa for the first time since he started college.
"I'm excited to get going because I've been swimming really well at practices and I'm excited to get home, to race in my own country for a change," he said.
The Summer Games will begin July 27.