ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From the Marshall Islands to Albuquerque to Columbia, Mo., Madison Bridges has done her share of traveling.
Could the next stop be Rio de Janeiro for the highly decorated swimmer?
Bridges, who grew up on the Marshall Islands — a nation in the northern Pacific Ocean — and made a name for herself with an outstanding career at Albuquerque High School, is in the middle of her freshman season at the University of Missouri.
When she wraps up her college career, Bridges has aspirations of swimming for the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
“The next time it comes around, I will have just graduated college, so it will be my senior year,” Bridges said. “It’s pretty much perfect timing for me.”
Olympic dreams are nothing new for Bridges, who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke. Although she didn’t make the team bound for London, Bridges gained valuable experience.
“That was incredible,” Bridges said. “Probably the best part was getting to come back every night to the final session and watch some of the biggest names in USA Swimming compete. That was really cool. I think it was really great to get the experience and go and check it out the first time around. Hopefully I’ll be better prepared for 2016.”
That preparation helped her transition at the beginning of this season at Missouri.
“I did feel a little bit of pressure, and it is kind of nerve-racking,” Bridges said. “But it’s also so awesome to be around a group of people who are really determined and working as hard as you are every day.
“Things are going well. The training that we’re doing now is completely different than anything I’ve ever really done. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been really interesting.”
Obviously Bridges is no stranger to hard work. She won four consecutive state prep titles in the 200 IM and state championships in the 100 backstroke in 2009, 2010 and 2011 while at Albuquerque High. Those accolades gained the attention of several college programs.
“Missouri was my last trip and my fifth trip,” Bridges said. “I was actually pretty much set on either Texas or Kansas, but then I took my trip here and that kind of changed.
“It’s really hard to put into words. I really liked the team mentality, and I got along with the coaches great. I remember thinking to myself when we were walking around campus that I really hope they have a place for me, (that) I would love to be a part of this team. Thinking back, that really showed me that this is the place I needed to be.”
Swimming coach Greg Rhodenbaugh indeed had a spot for her.
“I can’t believe the first semester has already flown by,” Bridges said. “I only have good things to say. I’m really enjoying myself.”
Of course, like most freshmen, Bridges had an adjustment period.
“I called my mom quite a lot the first couple of weeks,” Bridges said. “We were there for each other and everything worked out. She actually got to watch me swim at my midseason meet. She surprised me. That was really cool.”
With Olympics Trials experience and the freshman jitters behind her, Bridges is now focused on becoming the best collegiate swimmer she can be.
“I’m going to try to get stronger,” Bridges said. “You’re never 100 percent perfect, so I’m going to keep working on the little things every day.”
— This article appeared on page D8 of the Albuquerque Journal