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On Her Way to Beijing

Chloe Sutton smiles after qulifying for the 2008 U.S. Olympic swim team. (courtesy photo by Sutton family)

Chloe Sutton smiles after qulifying for the 2008 U.S. Olympic swim team. (courtesy photo by Sutton family)

Chloe takes a breath as she swims during the Beijing Qualifying Event, June 1. (photo by Pei Qingsheng)

Chloe takes a breath as she swims during the Beijing Qualifying Event, June 1. (photo by Pei Qingsheng)

Los Angeles Air Force Base -- You just never know who in your workplace has a most extraordinary and interesting story. To say the least, Chloe Sutton, daughter of Col. and Mrs. David Sutton, who is the Director of Staff at the Space and Missile Systems Center, is an Olympian on her way to Beijing, China, to compete in her first Olympics, has one such story.

As a top U.S. open water swimmer, she was one of the first two swimmers to be named to the 2008 U.S. Olympic swim team. At just 16, Chloe is the only female American athlete to qualify in the newest Olympic aquatic event--the 10K (6.2 miles) Open Water Marathon Swim. As a matter of fact, this is the first time this event has been included in the Olympic lineup. It is usually contested in the ocean, lakes or rivers. For this year's Olympics, competitors will swim in a huge man-made river that is filtered.

"I have been swimming since I was 7 years old," said Chloe. "I love the open water more than anything." Even though this year's competition will be in a man-made river, Chloe says she love the waves, the wildlife, and the ever-changing atmosphere of the ocean.

After talking to Chloe, there is a whole lot more to this competition than may meet the eye. It is a tough, intense, fierce competition. It is two hours long--that's a little over two hours in the water.

Dehydration is a constant concern while you are in the water, she said. Chloe gets a quick sip of Gatoraid mixed with a gel-pack of glucose at the feeding stations a few times during the race.

"There are obviously many coaches on the dock used as the feeding station," said Chloe, "and not only do the coaches have to work for a good position on the dock, but with the weight and number of people, the dock can possibly sink," she explained. "Also, if your coach falls into the water, both you and your coach are disqualified."

And it's not just the water elements that Chloe is dealing with. She must maintain constant situational awareness as other swimmers (25-60 person race) are aggressively vying for space and position.

Later this month, Chloe will compete at the USA Olympic Trials for the pool in Omaha, Nebraska. She is ranked as one of the top swimmers in the United States in the pool as well. Chloe is qualified to swim the 200, 400, and 800-meter freestyle events, but as Chloe says, "open water is my priority right now."

Chloe won the Pan American Games in the ocean off the Copacabana Beach in Rio De Jenairo, Brazil, and won the World Cup in London in the Thames River.

Her future plans are to continue to practice, compete, and "just do the best I can." Her advice to anyone who would like to compete anywhere is to "just love what you're doing. Totally dedicate yourself to working hard. Be the hardest worker in practice, learn from each mistake and aim high.

To an extraordinary, amazing young woman, we all wish Godspeed and best wishes in Beijing.