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Swimmer Jessica Hardy back on international stage

July 22, 2011 |  3:40 pm

The quick looks of appraisal have a different look about them … for lack of a better word.

At least that’s the way swimmer Jessica Hardy has been feeling, of late, having been under a certain sense of scrutiny since the summer of 2008. Hardy tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol and missed the Beijing Olympics, ultimately serving a one-year suspension. She said the positive test came via a contaminated supplement.

More recently, Hardy and her legal team were successful in an appeal to the International Olympic Committee for clearance to compete for the chance to swim in the 2012 Olympics. Her biggest meet, and stage, since the Olympic trials in 2008 will be the world championships, which start Sunday in Shanghai.

She is expected to compete in the 50-meter freestyle, the 50 breaststroke and, possibly, other events, in addition to relays.

“I feel a different kind of attention,” said Hardy in an interview last month at a swim meet in Santa Clara. “It's definitely not like a scared curiosity from other people any more. Now it's kind of like recognition or a happiness, encouragement. That's how I feel.

“I feel more welcomed and less self-conscious, more excited and genuinely happy. … To just see the international people I haven't seen in a long time and to watch the American flag get raised, it will be really exciting and awesome to see that.”

The process of healing has been tricky and complicated for the 24-year-old who grew up in Long Beach.

“There's definitely not a set route to coming out of this, because no one's had to go through on such a high scale,” Hardy said. “The support of my family and friends and coaches is the biggest thing that's helping me consistently. And I love to swim, and coming back into that happiness and love is what helps me stay happy.”

It also forced Hardy to operate in a different way out of the pool. Self-reliance could only take her so far.

“I've learned that I'm a lot stronger than I ever knew I could be, and I've learned that it's also OK to accept help from other people,” she said. “Because I've always been very independent and a strong person my whole life, and I've had to rely on the help of attorneys and my family and my coach more than I ever would have before.”


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Photo: Jessica Hardy waves during a training session at the 2011 FINA Swimming World Championships in Shanghai, China on Thursday. Credit: Mark Baker / Associated Press