Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series highlighting two former N.C. State swimmers who are trying out for the 2008 Olympics. Today's story is on Dan Velez.
The anticipation keeps Dan Velez up at night.
The former N.C. State swimmer's excitement about trying out for the Puerto Rican national team for the 2008 Olympics and the accompanying four-days-a-week early morning trainings don't allow him much sleep.
"Lately, for every morning practice we have, I get just a couple hours of sleep the night before because I'm just excited about swimming practice in the morning," Velez said. "I just get wide-eyed thinking about it."
Velez completed his eligibility in 2006 and has been training for most of that time on campus. His effort to make the Puerto Rican team requires him to score an Olympic qualifying time in the 100-meter breaststroke within a year of the Olympics.
And with Velez's recent progress in practice, State coach Brooks Teal said Velez is right where he needs to be.
"He's had really an awesome last two or three weeks for training," Teal said. "He went out to California for a week and trained hard out there and built a lot of momentum. He's come back, and last week he had an awesome week of training, and he seems to be right on track."
While Velez's efforts are currently focused on qualifying for the Olympics, his ultimate goal is to finish in the top 16 in his event in Beijing this summer, something his coach said is well within his reach.
"Once he gets his cut, then I think he can focus on making it back at night and doing whatever it takes to swim in the finals because he's seen the best competition in the world," Teal said.
Velez has had the chance to train alongside former teammate Cullen Jones, who is trying out for the U.S. team. While he suggested they train similarly, they are in two completely different events: Velez in the breaststroke and Jones in the freestyle.
"If we ever race each other, it will be for complete fun," Velez said.
Even so, Jones noted that he and Velez's practice arrangement is a positive for both of them, as each of them can identify with the struggles of the other.
"He helps me out a lot. We talk a lot, and it's fun," Jones said. "It's a hard life at this point."
While Jones suffered a back injury in the summer, Velez has remained relatively healthy during his training. But that's not to say he doesn't have some nagging injuries.
"I've been very lucky with injuries," Velez said. "I usually say that I have full-body tendonitis just because I have tendonitis in a lot of my different joints. But it's pretty easily manageable. I just have to stretch and ice all the time -- nothing serious."
While the Olympic stage may be new for Velez if he qualifies, he won't be completely in uncharted territory. Velez knows a few of the international breaststroke competitors. And he has even competed in the Pan-American Games in Brazil and the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
"It took a lot of the worry and nervousness out of going to China," he said of those trips.
While Velez still doesn't know 100 percent whether or not he will be on the team, Teal said his and Jones' efforts in training for the Olympics can only help the swimming program at State with visibility and motivation.
"They're great models for the rest of the team to see that there's something past collegiate swimming," Teal said. "And the whole team gets excited when they see the level of accomplishments that these guys achieved. And it's great for recruiting too; there's no question about that."
While his tryout may have that impact on the program, Velez can still only imagine the culmination of his many short nights of sleep as he prepares. What awaits at the end of that preparation is something he can't wait to experience.
"My mind's going to be pretty blown when I get there," Velez said. "I've never been to that part of the world. I've seen the facilities that they're building. They're ridiculous. It's going to be exciting."