Tar Heel swimming and diving senior wins gold on international stage
When Caroline Baldwin, a senior on the North Carolina swimming and diving team, stepped up to the platform at the World University Games in Chinese Taipei, she knew the swimmers beside her were among the best she had ever faced.
“I knew the Russian girl I was swimming against was the real deal,” Baldwin said. “She had a really good swim in preliminaries and in the semi-finals. I knew the work was cut out for me, and I tried to keep my head down and to the wall and hopefully I turn around and see the scoreboard and see a one next to my name."
Baldwin did see the one next to her name, accomplishing a career-best time in the process to win the gold medal. Baldwin surpassed her previous best and school record of 25.13 seconds, which had been set at the North Carolina Senior Championships earlier this summer.
Baldwin collected a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle, where she placed first with a time of 25.02 seconds. She narrowly beat out Russia’s Mariia Kameneva, who took silver with a time of 25.08 seconds.
Baldwin also picked up a relay medal in the swimming portion of the World University Games, which concluded on Saturday.
The United States relay team finished second in the 400-meter medley relay with a time of 4:00.49, just behind Japan’s time of 4:00.24. Baldwin swam the anchor leg of the relay.
The significance of representing her country was not lost on Baldwin.
“I definitely carry myself a little bit differently when holding the Team USA gear,” Baldwin explained. “I am grateful to have been given this opportunity and make an impact with people supporting me there and back home."
After her 50-meter freestyle race, the first people she thought of were her parents who had supported her from the start.
“My dad actually got to come out to Taiwan and my mom was watching on the live stream,” Baldwin said. “It was a 12-hour time difference so I was just hoping my mom was able to watch. I was so grateful and surprised at how many people got to watch it, and everyone supporting me from the last four years came to mind."
One of her most ardent supporters was UNC assistant coach Duncan Sherrard, who was at the Games, advising and cheering on his athlete.
“He could not tell me how proud he was more than he did,” Baldwin said. “We reminisced on how far I have come in the past year as a swimmer. If you had told me in the past year I would have won gold this summer I would have probably laughed in your face. So it was nice to reminisce upon this past year and see where I have been and where I want to go."
For now, Baldwin plans to return to school where she hopes to lead UNC to an ACC Championship after the team finished fourth in the 2016 - 2017 conference competitions last season.
“I just want to make the most of this college season and try to make the most of each day with my teammates and coaches,” Baldwin said.
Asked about competing after her eligibility was over, Baldwin held out hope that she can continue to reach new heights.
“Up until this meet, I was just going to swim until my eligibility was done and then get a job and be a regular person," Baldwin said. “Now, I am starting to think to keep training until 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics. I will probably make the decision come March or April."