Jessica Hardy earns her Olympic spot on the US swim team

Dan D'Addona

Four years ago, Jessica Hardy’s jubilation of making the U.S. Olympic team was short-lived.

After qualifying for Beijing, Hardy tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned substance, and was replaced on the Olympic team.

It has been a fight for the Long Beach, Calif., native ever since, culminating with the redemption of making the Olympic team for London later this month.

“This is so meaningful. I can’t even tell you guys how happy and grateful and so incredibly grateful I am,” Hardy said after making the team at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.

It was the latest step toward redemption after winning her appeal, proving the positive test was caused by a contaminated Advocare Arginine Extreme supplement.

Hardy won the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials to make the Olympic team in both events as well as the 400 freestyle relay.

“I still don’t believe it really happened,” Hardy said. “I think, as soon as I was told I wasn’t allowed to compete, it was the first thing I wanted to do again.”

Hardy said she came out of the situation stronger mentally and physically.

“During the time I was suspended, I put a lot of emphasis into my training and appreciated every single second in practice, and I still do now,” she said. “It’s something that’s changed in my over my career, how much I enjoy swimming in practice, and every race I get to do is fun and an opportunity, where before it could be stressful.

“I think going through the heartbreak of my 100 breast this week rekindled that emotion, what I went through in 2008, and for a 24-hour period I was pretty sad and upset. But I think it brought out a better swim in me.”

Hardy was touched out in the 100-meter breaststroke — her best event — and finished third, just missing earning a spot in the event.

She rebounded to win both sprint events.

“I don’t think that race would have been possible without going through the breaststroke and that disappointment,” Hardy said. “I think I still could have had a good 100 freestyle, but not that good of a 100 freestyle. I’m really happy with that.”

U.S. women’s swim coach Teri McKeever is happy Hardy made the team.

McKeever is looking forward to finally seeing her compete in the Olympics.

“I think there’s an expectation of every coach and every athlete that had the vision of being on the team, also had a vision of how to get better in the next 26 days,” McKeever said. “To me, that’s the key.”