Nolan Harvey waves to the audience prior to the 50-meter backstroke in the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington, on Thursday during the Special Olympics USA Games. (Courtesy Photo | Special Olympics Alaska)

Nolan Harvey waves to the audience prior to the 50-meter backstroke in the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington, on Thursday during the Special Olympics USA Games. (Courtesy Photo | Special Olympics Alaska)

Harvey wins gold medal at USA Games

Closing ceremonies took place Friday

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Empire spoke to Nolan Harvey on Thursday. The Empire spoke to Harvey on Friday. The article has been updated to reflect the change.

It didn’t take long for Juneau swimmer Nolan Harvey to double his medal count at the Special Olympics USA Games.

After winning a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle on Wednesday, Harvey added a silver in the 50-meter backstroke the very next day, trailing only Utah’s Blake Baadsgaard to the wall and finishing in 1 minute, 16 seconds.

“I used my flutter kicks to get to the finish,” Harvey said from the King County Aquatic Center outside Tacoma, Washington, on Friday. “And then I had an interview with (KTVA Channel) 11 news.”

Harvey got the best of Baadsgaard and Tennessee’s Christopher Smith roughly 24 hours earlier. The three shared the pool in the 50 freestyle and Harvey came from behind to knock off both his competitors with a time of 1:07. Smith and Baadsgaard finished in 1:10 and 1:12, respectively.

Harvey’s mom, CJ Johnson, and longtime friends, Annie and Mattice Geselle, watched the race unfold.

“He really swam harder than we’ve ever seen him swim,” Annie Geselle said. “He clearly wanted to get that medal — not just a medal, but the gold.”

“He had to swim out from behind and beat people to win that race,” Johnson added.

A total of 25 athletes and unified partners traveled with Team Alaska to the Games, which started on Sunday and wrapped up on Friday. Harvey and Erica Pletting, of the Mat-Su Valley, were the only two swimmers on the team. The Alaska delegation also brought along unified basketball, bocce and bowling teams, among others.

Johnson said all the athletes were celebrated even before they won any medals. Special Olympics volunteers greeted all the arriving teams at the airport, cheering them to, “Go for gold!” Team Alaska was seated in the front row for opening ceremonies at Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus, which was aired on ESPN and headlined by pop star Charlie Puth.

“Nolan was in the front row and family from all over the country, family and friends, were sending us screenshots from their TVs of Nolan’s face on national TV,” Johnson said. “So that was really exciting to see him smiling like that on the big screen and to be part of something like that.”

When he hasn’t been in the water, Harvey has been busy interacting with other athletes in the dorms and athletes village, Johnson said. All teams are given commemorative team pins and encouraged to trade with athletes from other teams.

At last count, Harvey has amassed about 40 pins, a symbol of all the new friends Harvey has made this week.

“There’s just no way to count everything that happened and all of the opportunities that Nolan has had while he’s here,” Johnson said.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


Nolan Harvey, far right, with (left to right) brother Ryan Harvey, friend Annie Geselle, friend Mattice Geselle and mom CJ Johnson outside the King County Aquatic Center, the site of the swimming events for the Special Olympics USA Games. (Courtesy Photo | CJ Johnson)

Nolan Harvey, far right, with (left to right) brother Ryan Harvey, friend Annie Geselle, friend Mattice Geselle and mom CJ Johnson outside the King County Aquatic Center, the site of the swimming events for the Special Olympics USA Games. (Courtesy Photo | CJ Johnson)

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