When Alex Walsh lunged with her left arm to touch the pool wall of the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, her life changed. She was no longer just Harpeth Hall's Alex Walsh or University of Virginia's Alex Walsh.
She was Olympic silver medalist Alex Walsh.
The 2020 Harpeth Hall graduate and UVA sophomore finished second in the 200-meter individual medley Tuesday night at the Tokyo Olympics. Her time of 2:08.65 was 0.13 seconds behind Japanese gold medalist Yui Ohashi.
Walsh's UVA teammate, American Kate Douglass, rounded out the top three with a time of 2:09.04, claiming bronze.
"Robert (Alex's father) and I stayed up kind of late last night and we watched the race about four more times," Glynis Walsh, Alex's mother, told The Tennessean with a laugh Wednesday. "It was just so exciting for it all to come together like that."
Walsh's family wasn't able to travel to Tokyo because of COVID-19, so they invited family and friends from the swimming community over to their house. As Glynis tells it, there was screaming, yelling, lots of clapping and some jumping up and down for two minutes while watching her 20-year-old daughter.
"Everyone just went crazy. Our whole house was shaking," Glynis said. "It was like the loudest noise I've ever heard."
The 30-plus people crowded together in front of a TV, which included children holding "Go Alex!" signs and miniature American flags. The crowd let out an exuberant cheer when Walsh reached out to touch the pool wall.
Walsh is Harpeth Hall's fourth Olympian and joins alumna Tracy Caulkins with a medal finish in the 200-meter individual medley. Caulkins claimed three gold medals in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and is the last American to win gold in the 200 IM.
Walsh grew up training in the Tracy Caulkins competition pool at Nashville's Centennial Sportsplex with the Nashville Aquatic Club before arriving at Harpeth Hall. Her Harpeth Hall swimming coach, Polly Linden, knew when she saw the competitive teenager walk the halls she would be a successful swimmer after graduation, but an Olympic silver medal is something Linden couldn't imagine.
After making her Olympic debut, Walsh will return to UVA with another opportunity to swim with her younger sister, Gretchen, another recent Harpeth Hall graduate who will be a freshman this season.
Walsh was a combination of "relieved, excited and happy" after claiming a medal for the U.S., her mom said. And her impact has been felt within the Nashville community.
During Monday's watch party at Harpeth Hall, as Walsh swam a preliminary race, an elementary school student asked when someone was going to make an Alex Walsh Barbie doll, as was done for star Olympians such as soccer player Alex Morgan and rock climber Kyra Condie.
"It just goes to show, like to kids," Linden said, "Alex Walsh is their hero."

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