Olympic swimmer returns to roots, raises funds for children with cancer
The last time Kara Lynn Joyce swam in open water, she was about 11 years old and diving into Canandaigua Lake.
The experience was not her favorite.
“I hated the seaweed,” Joyce said. “And I didn’t want to do it again.”
Sunday was a different story, though. Although she had taken a few weeks off from swimming and was a bit nervous about the 600- yard open-water swim, the two-time Olympian was thoroughly enjoying her time at Carly’s Crossing.
“I didn’t really expect that there would be this many people,” Joyce said. “It’s amazing. I love it. I love that they contacted me to be a part of it. I already want to come back again.”
For Joyce, her appearance and participation were a way to give back to a community that helped mold her swimming career.
Born in Brooklyn, she moved to the Rochester area with her family when she was 9, and she lived in Western New York until age 16, spending many hours in Buffalo pools for competitions and practices, particularly in Alumni Arena at the University at Buffalo and the Flickinger Aquatic Center at Erie Community College.
“I qualified for the first Olympic Trials at UB in 2000, and I would say that was the beginning of it all when I was 14,” Joyce said. “I had high school state championship meets at ECC, and my first state title was there. Growing up I had meets in Buffalo all the time, and I had some of my best swims in Buffalo. I love the town, the city. It’s really a fun place, and I’m just glad I could give back.”
Joyce came to Gallagher Beach in Buffalo to sign autographs and pose for pictures along with her silver medals from the Beijing Olympics. Joyce was part of two silver medal-winning relay teams in Beijing — the 4×100-meter freestyle and the 4×100 medley relay. She also won silvers in those events in the Athens Olympics.
In addition to her Olympic feats, Joyce was an accomplished collegiate swimmer at the University of Georgia, where she won 18 NCAA titles.
After a morning of meet-and-greet, Joyce prepared to take to the water in the afternoon for the 600- yard event.
More than 300 swimmers participated in the seventh annual Carly’s Crossing event with one-mile and 600-yard swims. Participants raised money for Carly’s Club — an organization that provides support to children with cancer and their families, and helps support research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Joyce has no personal connection to Roswell Park.
“I’ve been fortunate,” she said. “No one in my family or any of my friends have dealt with cancer.”
Still, when she heard about Carly’s Club and the open-water swim event, she was moved and excited to be a part of it. Once the day came and passed, she was impressed and enthusiastic to return.
Meanwhile, Joyce will return to her pool training in earnest today, preparing to qualify for the Pan Pacific Games in 2010 with her sights set on the 2012 London Olympics.
“The Pan Pacific meet is a good marker to see where you’re at and evaluate what you need to do before the next Olympics,” Joyce said. “Four years sounds like a lot of time, but it just flies by.”
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