Indiana swimmer hearing to Olympics with Team USA

(Photo Supplied/Pixabay)

He’s following right in his father’s footsteps.

“It’s unbelievable to be honest.”

Carmel native Aaron Shackell is heading to his first-ever Olympic Games with Team USA after winning the Men’s 400-meter Freestyle Final in the historic first night of U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials in Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday. The 19-year-old swam a 3:45.46, beating out Kieran Smith for the victory – all in front of the record-breaking 20,689 fans in attendance.

Shackell’s father Nick represented Great Britain as a swimmer in the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2000 Sydney games and married All-American swimmer Ali Hansen – who he met while both swam at Auburn University.

Shackell was a part of the Carmel Swimming Club during high school, but his journey to this moment started much sooner.

“I’d have to say since like kindergarten,” Shackell told reporters after the race. “Ever since I learned my dad was an Olympian, I always wanted to be an Olympian myself. It wasn’t always easy. For a long time, I wasn’t very good at swimming, and I honestly didn’t like it until a few years ago. People in that heat inspired me to go faster and work as hard as I could, and now I’m swimming with the best, and I’m going to Paris.”

Shackell had the luxury of making his own history in front of his hometown. He felt the energy from his friends and family in the record-setting crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“This is what I live for – performing in front of big crowds,” Shackell said. “I got my boys over here from Carmel. They’ve helped me this whole semester. I couldn’t have done it without them. Honestly, all of Indianapolis supporting me.”

Shackell was just one swimmer that secured a ticket to Paris Saturday. In the Women’s 400-meter Freestyle Final, seven-time Gold Medalist Katie Ledecky smoked the competition to make it to her fourth Olympic Games.

To start the night, Gretchen Walsh set a new world record in the Women’s 100-meter Butterfly semifinal. The Indianapolis crowd erupted at her 55.18-second time.

Saturday was just night one of the major nine-day event in Lucas Oil Stadium. Finals continue Sunday with the Men’s 400-meter Individual Medley and Women’s 100-meter Butterfly.

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