Yokota swimmer Heimbach falls short in bid for '04 Olympics
TOKYO — There won’t be a trip to Athens, Greece, this summer for Yokota High School swimmer Elliko Heimbach.
The junior finished 50th among 55 competitors Tuesday in the 100-meter butterfly in Japan’s Olympic trials, clocking the distance in 1 minute, 4.11 seconds at the Tatsumi International Swim Center.
Following Tuesday’s races, Heimbach said she was looking ahead to her summer season, adding that she had trained hard and entered the trials healthy.
“I was really happy to see her talk about the future,” her father, Rick, said by phone from Yokota Air Base. “It was encouraging to hear. Not one word about giving up. Nothing like that.”
It was the latest chapter in a six-year ride for Heimbach, a dual citizen of American and Japanese descent who has lived in Japan most of her life, making her eligible for the Japan and U.S. Olympic trials.
A member of the Kaneda Swim Club in Koganei, east of Yokota, Heimbach burst onto the Japan swim scene in 1997 at Tatsumi, capturing gold medals in the 50 freestyle (29.03 seconds) and 50 butterfly (31.44) in the 20th Anniversary Japan Olympic Committee Junior Olympic Cup.
More medals followed in Japan Junior Olympic competition, along with an appearance two years ago in the Japan National Junior High Championships and the prestigious Kokutai national sports festival.
Last year, while her father was on sabbatial in the United States, Heimbach distinguished herself at Irvine High School in California, winning a pair of national relay championships.
After returning to Japan, she qualified for the Japan Olympic trials in October with a 1:01.75 in the Suburban Tokyo Swim Club short-course championship.
It’s doubtful she’ll attend the U.S. Olympic trials July 7-14 in Long Beach, Calif., her father said, because she needs a long-course time of 1:02.39 to qualify. Her best time in that event is 1:03.58, set in April 2002 in Japan.