"When my tongue goes numb in a race, I know I'm going fast. Really fast." Kim is 15, and soon, she'll be in Nebraska swimming with the sharks—past Olympians and dozens of Olympic hopefuls, just like her.
"My goal for a really long time was making the trials," she said. "I'd go crazy if I made it to the Olympics this year. It's just weird to think about."
Although it could be argued that each of Kim's swims have brought her to this point, one specific day shines through. The 2011 Junior Nationals are a competition to remember.
At the time, Kim was only 14, yet seemingly a 400-meter IM (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle) veteran, as she started swimming competitively at 8 years old.
She chose the distance medley for simple reasons. "It includes all the strokes, so I don't get bored doing it." She shrugged. "And with the distance, I have more time to catch up to people if I'm behind."
And that she did.
Nearly hidden in the eighth lane (of a 10-lane pool), she barely made it to the finals. If the pool were eight lanes, Kim would have been cut, according to her coach Andy Pym.
But this second chance brought more than anyone had been expecting. "One week before the race, she swam a 4:58," her mom, Brenda, said. "We didn't really count on her making the finals at Junior Nationals. Her competition was much older."
As Kim made her way to the starting blocks, she adjusted her goggles, shrugged her shoulders and tried to ease her nerves. But coach Andy was on hand with his cheesy jokes. "He keeps me calm," Kim said. "He's just really funny."
Throughout the race, Kim kept a steady pace with her competition, but once her hand hit the wall and she transitioned into breaststroke, she took off. By the end of the 50 meters, she was a full-body length in front of her closest rival.
"I'm not sure she realized how far ahead she was," Brenda said. "So when she turned and took one look, I think she realized, 'wait a second. I'm winning this thing!' Suddenly I saw these feet just go and this motor turn on."
Kim pulled forward even farther during freestyle, solidifying her win.
"I was trying to drop like two seconds so I could barely get under the trial cut," Kim said. "It was just like, hello!"
In order to qualify, Kim had to get a time of 4:55.89 or better. When her head came out of the water and she clung to the edge of the pool, she saw her time: 4:49.76. "My face just dropped. It was a really big surprise. I had never even gotten close to that time before." Overall, Kim took sixth out of 120 swimmers that day, many of whom were a few years older.
But now it's on to bigger things.
Out of the 139 swimmers in Kim's event for the Olympic trials, only the top two will make the team. With every race, it seems like Kim's moving up the ranks; she dropped more time during a meet in Federal Way this past spring, bringing her down to 4:48.01. Now, she's ranked in the 30s among the other hopefuls for the trials.
"You don't think of (the Olympics) in the realm of possibility, necessarily, but crazier things have happened," Brenda said.
If she doesn't make it this round, Kim's already looking ahead to 2016. Much like big-name Olympians, she's never satisfied. "I've always loved Michael Phelps. He's so fast, and he always has goals that push him forward. Even when he gets so high, he always has goals to go higher."
Like Phelps, Kim is determined. She also believes in her abilities. "We could make finals," Kim said of hers and Ed's chances at the trials. "But really, we want to make our best times and have a good experience."
Too terrified to even put his head in the water as a child, Ed couldn't have guessed that he'd be going to the Olympic trials. "Swimming was not my choice in the first place," he said. And he didn't even start enjoying the sport until he joined the Bellevue Club Swim Team.
During Junior Nationals in August, when Ed was 15, he was the fastest 15-year-old 100-meter-freestyle swimmer in the nation with a time of 51.35.
From a boy who couldn't bare to be in the water, now Ed is practically gliding across it, choosing freestyle for its ability to allow him "to let loose."
"Strokes like butterfly and backstroke are very technique oriented and require some holding back in order to be as efficient as possible," Ed said. "Freestyle is also technique oriented, but when I swim freestyle I feel like I have more freedom to focus on beating the person next to me."
Which he usually does. His coach, Andy Pym, notes that when watching Ed in the pool, his demeanor makes the stroke look effortless, but the training is difficult.
"It's especially hard as a sprinter," Ed said. "I lack endurance, but I will continually try harder, as it plays a key part in my last 25 of the 100-free."
Down and back. That's all the time Ed has to win a race.
"Whenever I dive into the pool at a big meet, I have this drive to try and beat the person next to me. I don't have anything against that person, it's just that losing a race is that much more disappointing when you've worked so hard to get there."
Doing his best to prepare for the Olympic trials, Ed is going in with the mentality that it's just another big meet. "This will be the biggest meet I have ever been to, which calls for an even better performance," he said.
With London just around the corner, it's an exciting time, especially to be recognized as part of the top .5 percent of USA Swimming members. "Performance-wise, I'm sure it will be a surreal feeling to compete against all of the athletes who I've seen compete only on television."
One of the swimmers that Ed has looked up to is Ryan Lochte, who visited with the Bellevue Club Swim Team in 2008. "He has done many great things, and I hope to follow in his footsteps to become a better swimmer," Ed said.
But for coach Andy, Ed and Kim are inspiring in their own abilities. "I'm extremely proud of both of them," he said. "Both Ed and Kim are not satisfied with being talented and having perceived success at the local level. They want to achieve what they're capable of."
He sees a future for both in college at the major Division 1 level, but knows beyond that, a lot can happen. "BCST is designed to allow swimmers opportunities for success now and down the line, so I plan on continuing my efforts to help make them fast and prepare them for fast swimming in college. Where that leads, we'll just have to wait and see."
Although swimming is a heavily individualized sport, it takes a team of support to gain success, and these kids know they won't be alone in their lanes at the Olympic trials. "All of my successes so far are not by my own doing," Ed said. "Rather, my coaches and my teammates were the ones that pushed me to try even harder and improve myself."
*At press time, Kim and Ed were headed to the trials, running June 25-July 2.
*BCST alum Ethan Hallowell (Stanford freshmen) also qualified for the trials.
• Number of swimmers in USA Swimming: about 250,000.
• Number of swimmers expected to compete at trials: about 1,250, or .5 percent of the swimmers who are members of USA Swimming.
• Number of spots available on the U.S. Olympic Team: 52.
• Maximum percentage of swimmers competing at trials who can make the Olympic Team: about 4 percent.
• Maximum percentage of swimmers from USA Swimming who will be named Olympians at trials: about .02 percent.