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Elon alums cheer daughter on to gold medal in Rio

Swimmer Kelsi Worrell, the daughter of Bob Worrell '89 and Erica Faison Worrell '90, and niece of Dann Worrell '90, was a member of the U.S. women's 4x100m medley relay team. 

When Olympic swimmer Kelsi Worrell took to the water in Rio de Janiero earlier this month, she had a fan club there to cheer her on anchored by two proud Elon University alumni — her parents. 

Swimmer Kelsi Worrell, center, poses with her father, Bob Worrell '89, and mother, Erica Faison Worrell '90, after winning gold at the Rio Olympics. (Courtesy photo)

Bob Worrell '89 and Erica Faison Worrell '90 of Northampton, N.J., traveled to Brazil to see their daughter, who will graduate in December from the University of Louisville, bring home a gold medal as a member of the U.S. women's 4x100-meter medley relay team.

"So many adjectives come to my mind," Worrell said when asked about what it was like to see her daughter compete against the world's best swimmers. "I'm filled with pride, but it was also very humbling, which I know are two completely different feelings. It was the culmination of all her years of hard work coming together at that time. I'm so proud of her."

Joining the cheering squad were three of their older children — Taylor, Kyle and Jared — along with Bob's brother and fellow Elon alum, Dann Worrell '90, and Ron Worrell, who is Bob and Dann's father. They arrived in the South American country in early August to watch Kelsi Worrell compete in the 100-meter butterfly competition and the medley relay. 

After Kelsi made the Olympic team during trials in Omaha in June, Erica Worrell said the family immediately went into fundraising mode so that they could be there to cheer her. The Worrells designed a T-shirt featuring a female swimmer, the U.S. flag and "Fly Kelsi Fly." The shirt also featured #TGBTG, standing for "To God Be The Glory," Worrell said. 

Members of the Worrell family pose in the swimming center the Olympics in Rio. (Courtesy photo)

‚Äč"Within two weeks, we had raised $27,000," Erica Worrell said. 

The Worrell family arrived in Rio on Aug. 4, but were left to watch the opening ceremonies on TV since the event was sold out. Along with the swimming competitions, the family took in other sports in the Olympic park. 

"The pool was the furthest venue to get to, and walking through the park, you would hear this collective cheer from inside a venue," she said. "Every time I heard that sound, it gave me chills."

Asked if they were able to show off any Elon University apparel while in Brazil, Worrell laughed, saying "it was all 'USA'." 

During preliminary races for the 100-meter butterfly, Worrell unfortunately placed 9th, just missing a spot in the final for the event. Chinese swimmer Chen Xinyi, who placed fourth in the final, was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance, which made the near miss even more disappointing for her, her mother said.

But while coming so close to contending for a medal was difficult for Kelsi, Erica Worrell said, "with every meet, you gain more experience and you learn."

Kelsi swam on the U.S. team during a preliminary competitions on Aug. 12 that earned a spot in the finals for the 4x100-meter medley relay the next day. Though she sat out the medal competition after a substitution, as a member of the team she earns a gold medal for the team's winning performance on Aug. 13. Erica Worrell said her daughter already has her sights set on competing again in Tokyo in 2020. 

"You take what you need to learn, and use it for the next big race," she said.


Owen Covington,
8/19/2016 1:25 PM