Swimmer Alex Walsh wins Olympic silver medal in Tokyo
The Walsh family's house shook from the screams and celebration on Tuesday night as Nashville swimmer Alex Walsh stretched her fingertips to the wall in a pool thousands of miles away in Tokyo. The 19-year-old swimmer, a 2020 graduate of Harpeth Hall, achieved what she had dreamed of since she was a girl. She claimed a medal in the Olympic Games.
With a time of 2:08.65, Alex finished second in the 200-meter individual medley Olympic finals and clinched the silver. She was just .13 seconds behind Japanese gold medalist Yui Ohashi. Alex’s teammate at the University of Virginia, Kate Douglass, rounded out the top three with a time of 2:09.04 to secure a bronze.
“My legs are still shaking a little bit,” Alex’s sister, a swimmer and Harpeth Hall alumna Gretchen Walsh, told Nashville’s Channel 4 News in an interview following the evening’s stunning finish. “It’s amazing watching anyone at the Olympics, but it’s even more special when that person up there on the podium is your sister. I'm just so proud of her.”
Harpeth Hall’s Olympic swim history stretches back to the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. That year, Tracy Caulkins — also a Harpeth Hall alumna — claimed three gold medals, including a victory in the women’s 200-meter IM. No American has won the gold in the event since.
That remarkable feat set the bar for Alex, who grew up training in the Tracy Caulkins competition pool at Nashville’s Centennial Sportsplex. Now, as a silver medal winner, Alex will inspire future generations of girls.
“We feel honored to have Alex as an alumna of Harpeth Hall,” Head of School Jess Hill said. “Her strength and poise are an inspiration to all of us, and I am so glad she will now serve as a role model to all girls and young women. She leads confidently both in and out of the pool.”
With her swim in Tokyo, Walsh builds on Harpeth Hall’s Olympic legacy. She is the fourth Harpeth Hall alumna to compete in the Olympic games. She joins:
- Margaret Groos Sloan '77, who competed in the marathon at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, and was an alternate for the 1984 Olympic Games.
- Tracy Caulkins Stockwell '81, who won three Olympic gold medals — the 400-meter individual medley (American record), the 200-meter individual medley (Olympic record), and the 4x100-meter medley relay — at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
- Linden Wiesman Ryan '93, who won a bronze medal in equestrian team eventing at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
In anticipation of Alex’s appearance in the 200 IM finals, Harpeth Hall hosted an Olympic party on campus Monday. Students, parents, and alumnae came together wearing red, white, blue — and a splash of Harpeth Hall green — in celebration of Alex’s Olympic debut. Alex’s sister and mom joined the event, watching and smiling as Harpeth Hall girls put “Go, Alex!” Olympic tattoos on their cheeks and recorded spirited videos to wish Alex well.
“You always hear people talking about, ‘I dream about going to the Olympics one day,’ and I think to so many of us it’s just that a dream,” Harpeth Hall Swimming & Diving Coach Polly Linden said. “So for these girls to see someone made their dream come true is just awesome.”
On Tuesday night, the Walsh family gathered with a smaller group of close friends and loved ones to watch Alex swim in the finals. Unable to be in Tokyo with Alex because of pandemic health and safety regulations, they surrounded themselves with their swim community family from Harpeth Hall and the Nashville Aquatic Center.
After a nail-biting two minutes, the Walsh house erupted with joy.
“I am totally in a state of shock,” Alex’s dad told Channel 4 News after Alex’s silver-medal-winning finish. “It was an amazing experience. We were all screaming at the top of our lungs.”
And so was the rest of Nashville. Twitter exploded Tuesday night with congratulations for Alex, including shoutouts from the Nashville Predators and Nashville Mayor John Cooper.
“What a great race,” said Ms. Linden, who coached Alex for four years at Harpeth Hall. “Alex has worked so hard for this, and I am so happy for her.”