Imagine raising an Olympic medalist. That’s the reality for Doug and Lea Flickinger, the parents of USA swimmer and Olympic bronze medalist Hali Flickinger.
The Spring Grove native won bronze in the 400 individual medley on Saturday in the Tokyo Olympics.
“Just pure joy, excitement, proudness,” Lea said of her emotions. “Honestly, I’m speechless still with everything. We’re just proud of her accomplishments.”
Hali’s main event is the 200 meter butterfly, which she began competition for on Tuesday with the prelims.
“Three months ago it wasn’t even a thought in the back of her head that she was going to swim the 400IM,” Doug said. “Things progressed pretty well. Even at trials it was her first [event] where she knew she pretty much made the team. So [the 400] was really just a bonus, and to have her medal is better yet.”
The bronze was Hali’s first Olympic medal of the 27-year-old’s career. It’s a “bonus” win, as Hali’s main event is the 200 meter butterfly. In fact, she’s been labelled as one of the favorites to win the event.
“I don’t think [winning bronze in the 400IM] will relieve anymore pressure from what is to come up,” Doug said. “That’s a big thing with this sport is the pressure that people put on you. Being told that you’re the favorite or one of the favorites is a lot of pressure.”
“They just have a target on their back at all times,” Lea said. “You just feel like she has to perform to be that top that everyone is talking about.”
Back at home, the anxiety is palpable watching Hali compete in each event. Inside Spring Grove Middle School, Hali’s grandparents, Ken and Bonna Krout, watched as their Hali pushed hard for the final 50 meters of the 400IM to bronze.
At the pool during All-Star Championship weekend, hundreds of Spring Grove and Midstate swimmers watched with excitement as their alum put Pennsylvania Swim on the map.
“This hometown is what got [Hali] to where she is now,” Doug said. “This is where it all started. She knows this is where she got her start. Without it, she wouldn’t where she’s at.”
As family and friends are not allowed to attend the 2020 Summer Olympics in person due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Flickinger’s have been watching the events on a tv from the United States. The nerves, however, are the same.
“Well they always have their teammates,” Doug said of being separated from his daughter during the Olympics. “Us being in Rio to [now], we had some communication leading up to the 400 IM. After that was all over and we got to talk to her, she pretty well went radio silent now. We know that, we know how she is. She’ll stay away from social media anything, because all she has to do is look at social media and the anxiety comes. That’s what she has to watch is keeping herself calm. So we’ll take what we get, but it’s not a lot now until after she swims [Wednesday] night.”
As the Flickinger’s watch Hali compete from half a world away, the pride swells.
“I’m just a proud dad,” Doug said. “Nothing ceases to amaze me with her. She puts her mind to something, she’s going to do whatever it takes to get where she needs to be. We’re humbled when we see it.”
“You’re going to make me cry,” Lea said through tears. “Again, like I said earlier, I’m speechless. She just totally amazes us.”
“Day after day,” Doug adds.
“Yup, I’m a proud mama,” Lea said.
Hali swims Tuesday, July 27 night in 200 meter butterfly semis. Should Hali advance, the finals in that event are in the evening on Wednesday, July 28.