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Carmel’s Alex Shackell achieves lifelong Olympic dream

Carmel’s Alex Shackell achieves lifelong Olympic dream

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — It was the longest walk of her life.

She tried her best not to look up, just walk straight to her block in Lane 5. She didn’t want to get caught up in the pressure of the spectacle with around 20,000 fans watching the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It was all about this race: the 200-meter butterfly.

Alex Shackell, a rising-senior at Carmel High School, has swam in that race in every meet she’s had this season.

Her strategy worked. Shackell touched the wall in second place, qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. This is an accomplishment she’s been working towards for a lifetime.

“My whole life, I’ve wanted to be an Olympian,” she said.

She waited until after she was done swimming to finally look up at the crowd. She was sitting in the athlete section and took it all in.

“It was so crazy,” Shackell said. “I was like, I’m really happy I didn’t look until now, because I would have been so scared.”

She celebrated with her mom and grandmother on the way home from Lucas Oil Stadium. Her phone wouldn’t buzzing with plenty of people waiting to congratulate her. Fifty different people texted her while Instagram blew up with follows and mentions.

Swimming runs in the Shackell family. Her father Nick swam in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics representing Great Britain. Alex’s grandmother taught her how to swim from a young age.

Her brother Aaron also qualified for the 2024 Summer Games in the 400-meter freestyle.

He liked to play other sports growing up, especially basketball, but it was always about swimming for Alex. He tried getting Alex to play basketball when she was younger, but he said that only lasted about two games.

Now, they’re both going to the Olympics together for the first time.

“It just feels right,” Alex said. “I couldn’t see it any other way.”

“We’ve done everything together,” Aaron said. “I’m not surprised we’re doing this together for the first time.”

Alex was adamant that they were both going to make it this year and couldn’t imagine only one of them qualifying. She said that mindset might have helped them both make it to Paris.

Earlier this week, they had their first official Olympic team practice in Lucas Oil Stadium before everyone went their separate ways after the trials. Alex went to the World Championships last year, but being in the pool with only Olympians was completely different.

“From looking up to them and wanting to be one, being one (an Olympian) and with 50 other people all training to go to the Olympics was just so crazy,” Alex said.

One of those Olympians that Alex looks up to is Regan Smith. Smith already has three Olympic medals and retook the world record in the 100-meter backstroke in Indianapolis. Alex also raced against Smith in the 200-meter butterfly final, which Smith won. But throughout the week, Smith took Alex under her wing.

In the ready room before the race, Alex said the whole room was silent except for her and Smith. Alex said it was a bit awkward, but it kept the nerves down and got them ready for the race. Their similar personalities and senses of humor helped them bond.

“I love her so much, and we’re pretty good friends now, which is something four years ago I thought I’d never say,” Alex said.

Alex and Aaron won’t be the only Carmel swimmers to represent the United States at the Olympics. Drew Kibler will compete in 200-meter freestyle relay, and all three swimmers will be joined by their high school coach Chris Plumb — who will be an assistant coach for Team USA this summer.

As for other events that the Shackell siblings want to see in Paris, Aaron said he definitely wants to go watch some basketball. Alex wants go get to as much as she can, but unsurprisingly, she’s most looking forward to watching swimming.

“Just to watch swimming at the Olympics when I’ve always been watching on TV is going to be pretty cool,” she said.

Alex will start competing in the women’s 200-meter butterfly in Paris Wednesday, July 31 beginning with preliminary heats. The men’s 400-meter freestyle for Aaron starts on Saturday, July 27.