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Persevering to realize a dream

First Person

Laguna Beach graduate and U.S. Olympian Annika Dries shares what her experience has been like so far in London, where she arrived Monday in preparation for next week's Olympic Games.

July 26, 2012|By Annika Dries
  • Annika Dries relaxes on the balcony of her room at the Olympic Village in London.
Annika Dries relaxes on the balcony of her room at the Olympic… (Courtesy Annika…)

Editor's Note: A school record-holder in swimming and a CIF champion in water polo, Annika Dries graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 2009 as one of the finest athletes in school history. After leading Stanford University to a national title in 2011, she took a sabbatical from her studies in hopes of earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic women's water polo team. In May, the 20-year-old's lifelong dream came true, as she was one of 13 athletes named to the squad that begins play Monday. Below is a first-person account from Dries as she prepares for the Summer Olympics in London.

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Making the Olympic team in May was a dream come true. I had worked hard and proved I was competitive with the best of the best. But now the real fun is here.

I have the opportunity to play for the United States with my team at the Olympics! We are ready to face the world here in London.

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Leading up to this tournament, we trained very hard in June and traveled to China to play in the World League Super Final. Previously, we competed in London to check out the water polo venue and match up with the home team, Great Britain.

During the last past six months, we have played more than 40 games against different international opponents, including many games overseas in Italy, Greece, China, Russia, and Australia — with all their fans rooting against us. It was a great experience to "play for the silence," and this preparation will enable us to face any type of atmosphere in London. Our team is ready to face any team, at any time.

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Water polo is a tough sport, but I had an easier transition to the sport thanks to the Junior Lifeguard program with Chad Beeler. You have to be fit, you have to be aggressive, and you have to be determined to play this game.

I have learned that at every level, you have to have a fighting attitude. This attitude has been instilled in me since I played at the age group program here in town, through high school with Ethan Damato and my competitive teammates, at club practices at SET where Brad Schumacher sparked my Olympic dream, to Stanford, and now to the Olympic team, where every minute of every day is marked by the way you embrace challenge.

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