Hardy earns redemption with 2012 Olympic spot - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hardy earns redemption with 2012 Olympic spot

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LONDON (WRCB) -- Jessica Hardy smiled as she looked around at all her new teammates at the U.S. Olympic Swim Team's open practice in Knoxville.

The 25-year-old Hardy remembered being in their shoes four years ago, eagerly anticipating her first Olympic experience.

It was an experience that never came.

Prior to the 2008 Beijing Games, Hardy tested positive for Clanbuterol, a banned substance, and voluntarily withdrew from the team. Though proven to be an unintentional misstep stemming from a tainted supplement, the result led to a one-year ban from competition.

"I've been really motivated the last four years because of how I humiliated myself," Hardy said. "That dream was taken away from me, so I spent the last four years fighting to get it back."

Not without an internal fight of her own.

Hardy admitted to battling depression after the initial ruling, but managed to use the adversity as fuel for her training. Upon her return to the pool in 2009, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke.

"I applied all my frustrations in my training, and it really made me a tougher person," she said. "I just fought and clawed to get back here, and I feel I'm a better athlete and definitely a stronger athlete."

That certainly new-found toughness paid off last month at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha when Hardy failed to qualify for the U.S. team in her two signature events, the 50 and 100-meter breaststroke.

Instead crawling back into a dark place, Hardy returned to the blocks later in the week and won both the 50 and 100-meter freestyle races to secure her return trip to the Olympic Games. As a result of her trials performance, she's also been added to Team USA's 4x100 freestyle relay team.

"There's been plenty of hard spots along the way, that's for sure," Hardy said. "But to be here with a chance to step on the blocks in London and actually race and experience the elation of being in the Olympic Games, I cannot wait."

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