You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you’ll get.
— Michael Phelps
Eric Culver, New Paltz High School graduate and several time Section 9 title winner for the varsity swim team, has his eyes set on competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The 22-year-old swimmer, who is going into his senior year at the University of Buffalo, a Division One school, has just returned home to New Paltz after competing at the US Nationals, where he popped an Olympic trial-cut time in the 200-Meter Butterfly with a 2:02.9. “I was very happy with that,” said the ever-humble Culver. “I’m used to training in a short-course yard [SCY] pool, and transitioning to long-course meters [LCM, an Olympic-sized pool] was a challenge.”
He said that he was able to get some LCM training in after his college championships, which helped him feel more comfortable once he landed in Irvine, California, one of the pools most famed in the world for hosting meets in which every big-name swimmer, US or internationally, has raced or trained.
Most Olympic swimmers will readily admit that competing at the US Olympic trials meet is way more nerve-wracking than competing at the Olympics. Why? Because the US is a large country with a deep history of elite competitive swimming, and it only takes the top two swimmers at trials in each event to the Olympic Games. The final, fastest heat at the US Olympic trials often contains Olympic gold medalists, world recordholders, American recordholders and World Championship winners, yet only two get to the Games.
In Culver’s case, he has another route to pursue towards getting to Rio in 2016: by going to the Puerto Rican Olympic swim trials, a much smaller commonwealth that doesn’t have the depth that the US has. Many swimmers from around the world train in the US, swim for US college teams but return home to be part of their national team and represent their country at international meets. There are also many swimmers, like Culver, who have dual ties. His mother was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the US, then entitling her son to swim for Puerto Rico if he can make the commonwealth’s team and hopefully their Olympic team.
While a part of the United States, Puerto Rico is somewhat autonomous and fields its own independent sports teams. Team Puerto Rico often competes against the mainland Team USA in sporting events.
“I went to train with the Puerto Rican team the summer after my freshman year in college, and it was an incredible experience,” he said. “I learned so much from them, trained hard, enjoyed the coaches and the culture. And at that time, I was the second-fastest 200-meter butterflier on their national team.”
His plan is to swim with the University of Buffalo, train through the spring and once he graduates, head down to Puerto Rico and join its national team, train with them for two years and make the Olympic team at trials.