By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Before she became a college swimming phenom, before she swam in the Olympic Trials, there was a time when Amber Boucher believed she’d peaked.
“I came into college swimming and told the coaches that my best times were two years in the past,” Boucher said. “I didn’t understand how I could ever get the times I needed or get faster than I was on any given day.”
She credits the coaches at Boise State University, especially head coach Kristin Hill, with helping her change her mindset.
“They took me and said you can go faster. That year I went faster in every single event,” Boucher said.
While faster times didn’t secure her a spot on the Olympic team, Boucher improved her ranking in all three events she competed in at the trials. In the 100-butterfly, Boucher finished 85th. In the 100-free, she finished 68th and in the 50-free she finished 126th, but she said the latter was the weakest of her three races.
Overall, Boucher entered the competition seeded 111th in the nation and improved her standing to 68th.
“It was crazy, the best experience of my whole life,” she said. “Everything was so surreal and so much bigger than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.”
Boucher had already met many of the swimmers who will compete for the U.S. at the Olympic Games in London later this month, but said it was still a treat to watch them compete at the trials.
“They do amazing things in the pool,” Boucher said.
While the 2012 games are out of reach, Boucher doesn’t dismiss the possibility of competing for a spot on the 2016 team. The day after the trials finished she was back in the gym lifting weights and running stadiums.
“My parents asked me if I was going to take a day off, but I told them, “This is me, I’m an athlete,’” she said.
She would like to take some time off from swimming, but she’s contemplating triathlons, which include cycling and running in addition to swimming competition.
“Even if I would decide to go out for the 2016 team, it’s not like I would have to start training today. I could take two years off and come back to it,” she said.
She cited Brendan Hansen, a four-time Olympic medalist, as another racer who took time away and still reached great heights. It’s not like she doesn’t have plans for the interim.
“I really love volleyball and I used to play all the time, but swimming at college meant I couldn’t do that. Even getting into some backyard volleyball or sand volleyball would be great,” Boucher said.
Looking back on her career thus far, she said the biggest lesson she’s learned is that there is no such thing as a peak or plateau.
“Even in high school, I was trying to make the time cuts for the Olympic trials and it felt so unattainable,” she said. “But now I’ve done it. If you put your heart and soul into it, there’s always something you can do to get better. Dara Torres just swam at the trials and she’s 45.”