UVA swimmers Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass have been competing against each other since their formative years. However, the pair recently made headlines as teammates in Tokyo. During their Olympic debut, Walsh and Douglass captured medals in the 200-meter individual medley, which involves each swimmer doing each of the four primary strokes — butterfly, back, breast, and free — through one length of the pool. It’s frantic, quick, and often involves many lead changes, as each swimmer is stronger in a different stroke. The race came down to a matter of hundredths of a second, but Walsh and Douglass earned the silver and bronze medals, respectively. Just as important, both women set new personal bests, moving Walsh up to fourth and Douglass to ninth on the all-time list of fastest 200-meter individual medley swimmers in American history. This was also the first time that two Americans have stood on the podium in the women’s 200-meter individual medley since 1984.
Speaking to the bond between the two fierce competitors, Douglass said, "It has been great being able to watch all my other USA teammates medal and do amazing things. So now it was Alex (Walsh) and I’s chance to do that together and it was awesome we were able to do that next to each other.”
Together, the two women were instrumental in UVA winning its first swimming and diving national championship this season. Walsh captured the 200 individual medley, while Douglass was first in the 50 free. Walsh also anchored the Cavaliers’ 800 free relay team that took the NCAA title. Still, the competitors have had their fair share of battles in the individual medley, which is 200 yards rather than meters at the collegiate level. As a freshman, Douglass swam an ACC record 1:50.92 in the event, winning an ACC title and garnering All-America honors. However, in the 2021 season, it was Walsh who was able to squeak by Douglass, defeating her teammate in the ACC Championship en route to an individual national title. Together, the tandem gives UVA plenty to look forward to next season, when it hopes to defend its NCAA crown.
As Walsh and Douglass assumed two of the three spots on the Olympic podium, their Virginia family celebrated wildly back at home in Charlottesville. Their combined success in Tokyo is the newest chapter in the long, continuous history of UVA’s athletic achievements.