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Sophomore swimmer Keanan Dols holds Jamaican national records in three events and is pursuing an opportunity to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Credit: Son Nguyen

The Aquatic Sports Association of Jamaica has named Penn swimmer Keanan Dols its Male Athlete of the Year. 

The Jamaican native, who has 2020 Tokyo goals alongside his Penn career, now holds Jamaican national records in three events: the 200-yard individual medley, 200 backstroke, and 200 butterfly.

In addition to the glory of breaking a 30 year-old record set by Jamaican Olympian Andrew Phillips in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Dols’ record-breaking 200 IM (2:03:66) swim at the Central American and Caribbean Games in July 2018 has also given him an automatic berth into the FINA World Championships in South Korea this summer.

“It is a great experience [to swim for the national team], it's meaningful to be able to represent my country, and it has enabled me to have experiences most other people don’t have, having traveled to Singapore, Colombia, Aruba, and other countries,” Dols said. “My favorite part has been the 200 IM race, as it was the best swim I’ve ever had, and it put me in a good position to qualify for 2020." 

The sophomore missed out on the bronze medal by finishing 0.18 seconds behind the eventual bronze-medalist but had his best finish in a senior-level Championship final.

As one of several Penn athletes with Tokyo dreams, Dols has also been a consistent performer for the Quakers. He placed third in both the 200 fly ‘B’ final at the Tennessee Invitational and in the 200 back in a dual meet against La Salle this season. 

“I have been swimming on the national team for five years now, so I don’t have an off-season as I always have goals I’m working on outside of Penn swimming,” Dols said. “Hopefully as long as I continue to do what I need to do [and] don’t get injured or anything, I should be in a good position to qualify for the Olympics.”

How exactly does one qualify as a swimmer for the Olympic Games?

To qualify for the Olympics in the 200 IM, a National Olympic Committee can enter a maximum of two qualified athletes who swam under the Olympic Qualifying Time, which is 1:59:67 for Tokyo. One athlete can also enter by meeting the Olympic Selection Time, which is 2:03:26 for 2020. Dols’ record was 0.40 seconds behind the OST time. 

In the event that he does not swim under the OST, he can still make it to the Olympics. The Jamaican Federation can nominate him as long as they have no other swimmers, regardless of gender, meeting either OQT or OST requirements in the IM. 

“I basically have to be the fastest Jamaican in the next year and a half, and I was this past summer,” Dols said.

If he does that, the Quakers might be able to claim another Olympian in their ranks.