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keanan-dols-swimmer-jamaica
Rising senior Keanan Dols will become the first Penn swimmer to compete in the Olympics since 1976 as he swims for the Jamaican national team. (Photo from Keanan Dols)

By virtue of his 200-meter individual medley swim in April at the 2021 Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, Calif., rising senior Keanan Dols will be heading to the Olympics to compete for Jamaica.

With his time of 2:02.15, Dols, who’s been swimming for Jamaica for the past seven years, set the country’s national record in the event, surpassing his previous mark of 2:03.66 that he set in 2018. The Olympic “B” qualifying standard was 2:03.26, and by beating it, he more or less assured himself a spot on the team, even if it wasn’t guaranteed just yet.

“When I swam that time, it was just extreme elation and relief that I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do and [had] worked hard on for the last five years of this Olympic cycle,” Dols said.

The 22-year-old was born in Savanna-la-Mar, Jamaica and moved to the United States at the age of 3, attending high school at Pine View School in Sarasota, Fla.

By qualifying for the Olympics, Dols became the first Penn swimmer to do so since 1976, when Robert Lewis Cragg Jr. competed for the United States during the Olympics, which were held in Montreal.

After his record-breaking swim in April, Dols went right back to work, putting in a training block of about six to eight weeks, which has since ended. Now, he’s starting to rest again, so he’ll be fully refreshed before he heads to Tokyo for a training camp that begins on July 13.

Going into the Olympics, Dols doesn’t feel too worried about the attention that the competition brings, even if he acknowledges that it’s the highest point that someone can reach in the swimming world.

“I think it’s more excitement and anticipation than nerves because I’ve swam at two World Championships [and] at decently large meets, so I’ve swam against world-level competition before,” Dols said. “But the Olympics is obviously the pinnacle of sports for something like swimming, but I mean there’s no expectations. It’s just go out there, compete, and enjoy the moment.”

Despite his reputation as being one of the greatest swimmers in Jamaican history, Dols is still outside the expected lead pack at the Olympics, labelling himself as not being in the “getting-a-second-swim-and-making-a-semifinal range." 

With that expectation in mind, Dols’ goal in Tokyo is to get the best 200 IM time of his career.

Given the fact that he will be the first Quaker Olympic swimmer since long before anyone currently on the team was born, Dols will come back to Penn with a newfound wealth of experience that he hopes to imbue into the program.

“So I mean, coming [into] next year, I will be one of the leaders on the team, and I hope that some of the younger people can learn something from me, and I can be a good example of how to work and how to be successful in this sport,” he said.

Due to a gap year he took in 2019-20, Dols still has two years of eligibility left as he enters his senior year at Penn. Prior to his gap year, Dols swam as a Quaker for two years, qualifying for the Ivy League Championships in three events both seasons. During his sophomore year appearance at Ivy Champs, he reached the 'B' final in the 200 fly and finished in 15th place overall. Additionally, he reached the 'C' final that year in both the 200 IM and 400 IM. 

Because of the nature of the Ivy League’s rules surrounding graduate students, he’ll most likely be forced to compete elsewhere during his final year of eligibility after next season. Dols plans on continuing to swim after his college career is over, as he hopes to compete at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, as well.

The Tokyo Games will begin on July 21 and run through Aug. 8, with the swimming events taking place from July 24-Aug. 1.

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