Roy Burch was a celebrity in Bermuda, a headline-making Olympian featured in roadside advertisements across the picturesque island.

In the pool, no one could catch him. But against the world’s best, Bermuda’s greatest swimmer was outmatched.

“As a Bermudian,” he says, “I’ve always been made to feel small, and I don’t like that.”

So in 2011, he moved to Charlotte to discover how good he could be.

Here, he saw an elite swim club on the rise, Olympic medal-winners to train with and a coach who could push him.

Burch’s plan paid off. By early 2015, he was on track to represent Bermuda in his third Olympics. This time, perhaps, with even a chance to medal.

His newfound speed was the result of hard work, of constantly trying to outdo his teammates – even in warmups. That’s what he was doing in March, dunking basketballs in the Queens University of Charlotte gym before practice. He felt especially strong that day.

Then, he went up for a dunk, his legs buckled and everything changed.


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