Former NC State swimmer Ryan Held returning to Olympics ::

Former NC State swimmer Ryan Held returning to Olympics ::

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Ryan Held missed the last Olympics on a technicality.

It was a devastating moment, but it motivated him to keep swimming.

Now, he’s heading to Paris.

The 28-year-old Held officially became a member of the team Saturday night in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, a spot that was taken from him three years ago.

“It feels great,” he said. “Just all the ups and downs looking back on my career journey.”

At the pandemic-delayed trials in 2021, Held thought he had made the team when he finished sixth in the 100 freestyle. The U.S. team usually takes the top six to the Olympics to have extra swimmers for the preliminaries of the 4×100 free relay.

Due to roster limitations, however, Held was left at home.

“We’ve never not taken six,” he recalled. “We had never done this, and I was left off the team by a technicality. It was just heartbreaking. It was. I was kind of in a mix of emotions because swimming, which had brought me so much joy and passion for so long, now all of a sudden caused me so much pain and kind of anger and confusion.”

Held finished fifth in the 100 free at these trials, but he was a bit nervous until he was formally added to the Paris roster.

In retrospect, the disappointment of 2021 worked out just fine.

Instead of retiring, which was his initial plan, Held moved to Arizona State to continue training with his sights on another Olympics. He got to work with new coaches, gained new friends. He and his wife got a new dog.

“That was a terrible moment,” Held said. “But looking back, it was a blessing. Look at all the great things that came from it.”

Held captured a gold medal on the 4×100 free relay at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, joining Michael Phelps, Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian on the winning squad.

Now, a little later than Held was counting on, he’s got a chance to add another medal.