NORTH NAPLES, Fla. - The Summer Olympics are back this year. But if you don't have a ticket to see the games in London, you may still get a chance to see some Olympians! World-class swimmers, including an Olympic medalist, are training right now in Southwest Florida.
Three-time Olympic medalist, Katie Hoff is just one of the highly-skilled athletes training at T-2 Aquatics in North Naples. Four years ago, in a matter of four-minutes-and-31-seconds, Katie's life changed forever. At just 19-years-old, she had won her first Olympic medal at the 2008 Beijing Games.
"I remember my heart was just pounding out of my chest and I don't think that I could even comprehend that I was in an Olympic final," Hoff recalled. "I get chills just thinking about it."
She brought home two bronze medals, a silver medal, and set the current American long-course record for the 400-meter individual medley. Now she's ready for another run. Earlier this month she packed up her California life and moved to Naples to be back on board with her Beijing coach, Paul Yetter.
While dreaming of being on-deck with Team USA, Katie, along with the other world-class athletes spend 20-hours per week at the pool hoping their hard work, and a stroke of luck, will launch them into the olympic spotlight.
"It's kind of a game, back and forth in the training pool every day," said 17-year-old Elizabeth Pelton.
Pelton has been to the Olympic Trials once before and has been deemed the "up-and-comer" to watch for at this year's event. She recently broke two of her teammate Katie's world records. Like Katie, she moved to Southwest Florida hoping coach Yetter can get her to the games.
"Some people get discouraged by having a lot of fast people around them," explained Pelton. "but I think it makes you really be on target every day because if you're not, they're going to be kicking your butt in the pool."
While Elizabeth is just diving into her career, a few lanes over swims yet another talented athlete, Erica Erndl. After a brief break from competitive swimming, the 33-year-old gave up a promising teaching career to make one final attempt at the Olympics.
"I never planned to keep swimming at this age," said Erndl. "When I finished swimming in 2001, I thought that it was-- I thought I was done. And so the fact that I am swimming at 33 is really kind of amazing to me. I never thought I would be doing this at this point in my life."
All three women we talked to have turned into snow birds of sorts and all agree: what better place to train for one of the most important trials in their careers, than here.
"It's nice to be in a really pretty, warm, environment and swim under the palm trees," said Erndl. "I really don't think that I would be doing it if I still lived up north."
With their eyes set on London, the athletes realize that going the distance outside of the pool, will be key too.
"I want to be in the moment this time. I want to appreciate and look around no matter what happens. If everything goes well I want to be able to look around and think, 'wow this is cool and I'm so incredibly lucky to be able to have this experience,' " explained Hoff.
All of the swimmers will compete at the Olympic Trials in Omaha in late June. We will continue to follow them on their journey and bring you updates on their progress.