Not even superstorm Sandy could knock Olivia Chan off her game

Nicole Papsco, Olivia Chan, and Nicole Ciavarella show Nicole Papsco, Olivia Chan, and Nicole Ciavarella show off their medals in the 100-yard breaststroke at the NYS Federation Championship swimming finals at Ithaca College. (Nov. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Robyn Wishna

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After two weeks without power and nine days without being able to get into a pool after superstorm Sandy, Olivia Chan entered the Nassau County championships a little rusty and just a little worried.

"I felt really fatigued and I could feel that I wasn't really in shape," said Chan, a senior at New Hyde Park who swims for Sewanhaka District.

Maybe that gave the rest of the swimmers in the state a glimmer of hope that they could knock off Chan, one of Long Island's most successful swimmers.

It didn't happen.

Chan dominated her two signature events, the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley at the county level, then she turned around a week later and did the same at the state championships in Ithaca. Her two victories in that meet were the sixth and seventh state titles of her spectacular career.

Chan was clocked in 2 minutes, 3.31 seconds in winning the 200 IM, and 1:02.83 in the 100 breaststroke -- both marks earning her All-American status.

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"She's goal-oriented and she works hard to reach her goals," Sewanhaka coach Jim Hammill said. "There's no laying back -- she's just that kind of girl. You would want to have 20 girls like her as a coach to make your job that much easier. It's not just her talent -- it's her leadership and her ability to reach her goals. It's incredible -- you don't find that in a lot of individuals."

It led Chan to great success in the classroom as well. Bound for Princeton, she has her eyes set on the Ivy League championships and swimming in the NCAA championships. She already has qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials.

"Her hard work and her determination to reach the goal that she has in mind" is her best quality, Hammill said. "She puts her brain to it and puts her muscle to it and she does it."

That includes taking time out to be a team leader in her senior season. Chan has been swimming on the varsity since seventh grade and breaking Nassau records since eighth grade, but this is the year she finally became a vocal leader.

It all adds up to an extraordinary athlete, student and person.

"To be able to be around someone like that is very special for a coach, it's enlightening," Hammill said. "To come across the path of someone like that, you just never forget her."

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