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London • Even in the sprints, swimmer Andrew Rutherfurd is more of a finish-strong kind of guy.

But this is the Olympics.

He didn't want to leave anything out there.

So the 22-year-old senior-to-be at Brigham Young University overcame a few nerves and took his coach's advice to blast off the blocks and give it everything he had, right from the start of his 100-meter freestyle heat at the London Olympics on Tuesday morning.

It turned out to be "very painful," he said afterward, but also very rewarding. The native of Bolivia clocked a personal-best time of 52.57 seconds — the best achievement he could hope for on such a grand stage, knowing he wasn't going to qualify for even the semifinal, where the world's elite swimmers will finish in around 48 seconds.

"It was great," he said, with a smile.

The second Cougar to swim here — junior Rafael Alfaro raced the 400 individual medley for his native El Salvador on the first day of the Games — Rutherfurd swam in the third of eight heats, and was near the front most of the way.

But his new strategy caught up with him just enough in the final meters, when his legs gave out a little bit.

"I've never felt that before," he said. "My legs just kind of — even though I was telling them to kick — they were just kind of floating there, kind of flapping instead of really kicking. … You just do what you can."

A dual-citizen who lived seven years with his family in Bolivia before attending high school in suburban Atlanta, Rutherfurd swam mostly the breaststroke and individual medley for the Cougars last season. But he earned an invitation to the Olympic freestyle from the international governing body for the sport, as the best swimmer from his country.

Much like Alfaro, he's eager now to go enjoy London a bit, before returning home Aug. 8. He plans to cheer on Bolivia's only other swimmer here, visit a BYU teammate who lives in London, and of course check out some of the other swimming events after enjoying an "amazing" experience so far.

"Seeing people's dream come true is extremely emotional," he said. "Like what you see on TV sometimes, you see people accomplishing their dreams or their goals. But seeing thousands of people do it here at the Olympics, and being able to take part in it is huge. … It's an amazing thing, and I'm just happy to be a part of it."

Twitter: @MCLTribune

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