‘Absolutely wild’: Blacksburg’s Ian Ho reflects on life-changing 21.97 seconds that sent him to Tokyo Olympics

Japan 2020

HONG KONG (WFXR) — Every swimmer dreams about competing at the Olympics. But for a Blacksburg native and Virginia Tech graduate, those dreams are about to become reality.

Ian Ho booked a spot in the Summer Games after narrowly qualifying in a time trial held halfway across the globe.

“It has been absolutely wild,” Ho said in a Zoom call Monday morning, describing the 36 hours since qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

“It’s been so surreal. Since yesterday when I made the cut all the way til now,” Ho said. “I really can’t believe it because I’ve been working so hard. My life has changed so dramatically.”

For weeks, Ho has held the Hong Kong national record in the 50-meter freestyle. But his time still wasn’t good enough to make the Olympics.

“Every time, I had been inching closer and closer,” Ho said. “And so Sunday was my best shot at making it.”

Sunday was also likely his last shot at making the Hong Kong national team, with the window to qualify set to expire next week. The Olympic “A” standard for qualifying in the event was 22.01.

“Every time was just a little bit too slow. Couple hundredths. We’re talking eight one hundredths, three one hundredths where I’ve just been a little bit outside that range,” Ho said. “And I guess at this point there was really nothing I could do except for give it my all.”

In a race against the clock, Ho broke the 22-second barrier, becoming just the sixth Asian male swimmer to do so. He clocked in a time of 21.97 seconds, four hundredths of a second under the Olympic standard to qualify.

“I look up at the board and I just hear my teammates and all the people in the stands. And I was just absolutely overwhelmed like I could not believe it,” Ho said. “Like every time I’ve dreamed about this moment so much and every time I’ve come so close that I’ve almost accustomed myself to be like ‘You know it’s okay, we’ll try again next time.’ To finally see that I’ve gone under 22 was absolutely absurd.”

Now the former Hokie is Tokyo bound and is already looking forward to marching in the Opening Ceremony on July 23.

“Just being able to see all the hard work just come together, it’s been great. I’m honestly so blessed and so grateful.”

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