From tragedy to triumph -- Detroiter realizes Olympic dreams after losing father

‘It just felt like a gauntlet of challenges to overcome,’ Annie Lazor says

From tragedy to triumph: Annie Lazor realizes Olympic dream after losing father

DETROIT – The road to Tokyo has been filled with many challenges for athletes. The COVID pandemic impacted training and delayed the Olympic Games by a year.

Related: Olympics likely to open during COVID ‘state of emergency’

For Detroiter Annie Lazor, making the U.S. Swim Team came after one of the worst moments of her life.

Read: Complete Olympic coverage

Behind every stroke of a winning race, there are miles of water, one practice after another, lap after lap.

When you’re 26 years old and that final winning lap is the one that puts you onto your first Olympic team, you can expect a pool party.

“While I was fully confident in myself that I was going to do it and that I was going to make the team and I had prepared myself to do that, when it happens, nothing really prepares you for that moment of like 20 years of culmination of work,” Annie Lazor recalled.

“It just felt like a gauntlet of challenges to overcome,” said her mother, Stacey Lazor. “Obviously, we never anticipated we’d be dealing with such a profound loss in our family.”

Most Olympians have an army behind them. For Annie, that includes not just her mom, but her dad, who died suddenly in April. Team Lazor was in shock.

“I thought about that moment a lot, especially what it would be like walking out and seeing my family and not seeing my dad there,” Annie Lazor said. “That was something I really had to prepare myself for.”

“There was so much coverage about Dave’s death that it’s really good to have an opportunity to talk about his life,” Stacey Lazor said. “As much as Annie is a gifted athlete, Dave Lazor was a gifted father.”

“He never cared about my results for himself. He cared about them because I cared about them,” Annie Lazor said. “That was something that was so remarkable. He was only in it because my heart was in it.”

Annie Lazor had posted the fastest time in the world the weekend before the pandemic shut everything down and delayed the 2020 Games.

“One more year is not so much in the favor of a 25-year-old but it is in the favor of some 15-year-old out there,” recalled Stacey Lazor. “We just really prayed that she would just hang on.”

After each setback, Annie did was she’s always done -- she kept swimming.

She said she’s grateful to all her teammates for getting her through this time.

Related: Lilly King and Annie Lazor have a unique friendship that goes outside the pool

She’s currently in Hawaii for the U.S. Olympic Swim Team camp before heading to Tokyo to compete.

About the Authors:

Devin Scillian is equally at home on your television, on your bookshelf, and on your stereo. Devin anchors the evening newscasts for Local 4. Additionally, he moderates Flashpoint, Local 4's Sunday morning news program. He is also a best-selling author of children's books, and an award-winning musician and songwriter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.