Masy Folcik’s challenging journey back to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials

Purdue swimmer Masy Folcik

Purdue swimmer Masy Folcik qualified to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in both 2021 and 2024. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

The Purdue swimmer qualified for the Olympic Trials less than a year after undergoing surgery on both hips

For quite some time afterward, Masy Folcik found herself watching and rewatching video of the race where she officially qualified to swim in the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

“That was my proudest swimming moment,” says the Purdue senior a year after posting a qualifying time, or cut, necessary to compete in the 100-meter breaststroke in this month’s trials in Indianapolis.

There she is, touching the wall in 1 minute, 10 seconds, beating the necessary time of 1:10.2.

The tone of the event announcer’s voice makes it clear how excited he is over her accomplishment.

Next comes the contingent of Purdue swimmers present at the meet, rushing to share their teammate’s joy. They know she just earned a chance to compete once again in the Olympic Trials, having previously done so in 2021.

“Getting that cut was just insane,” says Folcik, a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree who plans to graduate next May with degrees in kinesiology and psychological sciences. “I thought about it for weeks after. Couldn’t sleep that night. I was so excited. When my teammates ran behind my block to give me a hug, I definitely cried. It was just amazing.”

Such a reaction would be perfectly normal for any athlete who just qualified to compete for Olympic team membership. But it was especially understandable after the challenging journey Folcik endured to get back to the trials.

At the meet where she posted her qualifying time last July — the Indiana Senior State Championships in Indianapolis — Folcik was just 11 months removed from undergoing surgery on both hips. She believes that relentless training in her signature event, the breaststroke, caused the labrums to tear in both hips.

Folcik underwent surgery on her right hip first, in August 2022, then the left hip a month later. The rehabilitation process was grueling, starting with painful exercises that simply required her to pick her legs up off the ground. She worked her way to biking and then jumping before she was finally able to return to swimming the breaststroke four months after the initial surgery.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been so excited for a meet as I am for this one.

Purdue swimmer Masy Folcik,
a senior in kinesiology and psychological sciences

Throughout the process, she dealt with reasonable concerns about her competitive future.

“It was not easy, just constantly having thoughts racing in the back of my brain if I was going to ever be as good as I was or going to be able to qualify for an Olympic Trials after I qualified in 2021,” she says. “That was a big thing for me. In my mind, it was embarrassing if I made it in 2021 and didn’t make it in 2024. So that put a lot of pressure on me.”

She credits John Klinge, the Purdue women’s swimming and diving coach, for guiding her through that period of self-doubt. Klinge pointed out that the extra upper-body strength training she was doing while she couldn’t use her legs would be beneficial when she returned to the pool. And sure enough, her arms felt stronger than ever once she swam her first meet postsurgery — against Illinois in January 2023 — and her confidence slowly began to return.

“My coach is the best person ever. He is my favorite person,” Folcik says of Klinge. “We met probably once every couple of weeks, and he’d be like, ‘How are you doing? You’re gonna be fine. I’m not worried about you.’ He just reassured me that I was going to be OK.”

The recovery process continues even today — Folcik estimates that she’s about 90% of the way back to her previous capabilities — so she’s happy to have one year of college eligibility remaining to make the most of her time as a Purdue swimmer. But first, she’s got one significant piece of business to address, alongside three other Boilermakers who will compete in the trials: Kate Mouser (400 individual medley), Brady Samuels (100 butterfly, 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle) and Coleman Modglin (200 breaststroke). Incoming Purdue freshman Evan Mackesy (400 individual medley) will also be among the men’s competitors.

Oddly enough, Folcik says she feels little pressure entering the biggest individual meet of her life, which will be held in Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been so excited for a meet as I am for this one,” she says. “But I would say comparatively I feel more pressure during the collegiate season because that is team oriented, and I feel the need to perform for my team, whereas this one is super individualized. You’d expect it to be pretty high-pressure because it’s such a big meet. So maybe it’ll be more high-pressure when I get there because I’ve never swam in a football stadium before in front of thousands of spectators.” In many ways, though, the pressure is already off. Not only did Folcik overcome her doubts by qualifying for a second Olympic Trials, but she also posted a better qualifying time than she did the first time around. Whatever she accomplishes next against some of the best swimmers in the world will be the icing on the cake.

Purdue swimmer Masy Folcik

I thought about it for weeks after. Couldn’t sleep that night. I was so excited. When my teammates ran behind my block to give me a hug, I definitely cried. It was just amazing.

Purdue swimmer Masy Folcik, a senior in kinesiology and psychological sciences