Fayette County

Breeden shows off silver medal at Lexington alma mater

Yes, an Olympic medal is heavy. And those new high-tech swimsuits take an awful long time to put on. That's just some of what Trinity Christian Academy students learned when Olympic swimmer Elaine Breeden visited her alma mater Wednesday.

The Lexington native, who earned a silver medal for her part in the women's 4-by-100 medley relay at the Beijing Olympics, is a 2006 graduate of Trinity.

"It's been kind of a whirlwind," said Breeden, 19. "It's kind of surreal to come back as a celebrity."

Dressed in flip-flops, a skirt and a red Olympic T-shirt, Breeden brought along her silver medal and Speedo LZR suit — which she said took a half hour to get into the first time she put it on.

She mentioned her faith in God: "I couldn't have done it alone." She talked about how nerve-racking the Olympic trials were: "Two minutes to fulfill 15 years of hard work." And she described her life in Beijing: "Eat, sleep and swim is pretty much all we did."

She also took questions. Which is when, inevitably, he came up.

"Tell us your experience," principal Vicki White said. "I know you probably spent a lot of time with Michael Phelps."

Breeden said all the U.S. Olympic swimmers spent six weeks training together and she did get to know all of them — including Phelps, who won an unprecedented eight gold medals in Beijing. She described the excitement of watching the men's 400 freestyle relay, when U.S. swimmer Jason Lezak came from a body length behind to win the gold.

"That was probably the most exciting sporting moment I've ever seen in my life," Breeden said.

Third-grade student Michael Feller, 9, got to hold Breeden's silver medal, something he said he'd be telling his father about.

"It was really heavy and when she said it was solid silver I was really surprised," he said.

Fifth-grade student Alexis Moore, 10, was impressed by Breeden's focus on God and Christianity and the perks of being an Olympic athlete.

"It was cool that she got to meet Shawn Johnson and Michael Phelps," said Alexis, referring to the gymnast and the swimmer.

A junior at Stanford, Breeden said the first thing she did after returning from Beijing about a week ago was to spend time with her extended family at Barren River Lake, where her grandparents have a house.

Breeden, still dazed and jet-lagged, said she's not used to the attention she's been getting. While eating lunch at Panera Bread, some patrons recognized her as "that swimmer from the Olympics" and said they'd been cheering for her.

"That was pretty cool," Breeden said. "This is the first time where people know who I am outside of the swimming community."