When Cary Orthopaedics’ Dr. Mark Curzan and his wife signed their three-year-old daughter up for swimming, they had no idea the fantastic future she would have with the sport. Nearly 14 years later, Claire Curzan is representing the USA – and the Triangle – in the Tokyo Olympics, which starts this week.

A big sports family

Claire Curzan was born and raised in Cary, North Carolina. She began her swimming career with the Reserve Stingrays and still frequents her hometown pool today. Claire was born June 30, 2004, and has the same birthday as Michael Phelps, she likes to point out. Claire started swimming to be just like her older brother, Sean, who is now the coach of the Stingrays at age 18. During her years on the neighborhood swim team, Dr. Curzan and his wife, Tracy, watched as their daughter beat kids twice her age but waited to sign her up for anything more serious.

“She played a lot of sports early on; she was a kid who tried it all. She ended up being really good at both dance and swimming,” says Dr. Curzan. “Around age 10 or 11, her dance coach said she needed to choose a sport with which to get serious, and Claire chose swimming.”

It’s not surprising that Claire has excelled as an athlete and is now known as one of the fastest young swimmers in the country. Dr. Curzan was a strong athlete growing up, even swimming competitively and playing water polo. Claire’s mom, Tracy, played soccer at Harvard and their youngest daughter, Kate, is following in her footsteps as a soccer player. 

Making it to the Olympic Games

Since she was 12 years old, Claire has continued to set national records in her age groups for the butterfly, backstroke and freestyle. When the pandemic shut down her training facility, Triangle Aquatics Center, she didn’t let that stop her. Dr. Curzan says, “Unlike other sports, swimming doesn’t have an off-season. Swimmers are rarely out of the pool for as long as she was. We were worried after a month off, but she got to reset and do some running and lifting. Being out of the pool forced her to cross-train, and it turns out it wasn’t that big of a deal.” He goes on to say that the shutdown turned out to be a positive thing and even helped her, in the long run, to make the Olympic team by giving her an extra year to train and grow.

“Sometimes it can be harder to mentally prepare for the trials than the actual Olympic Games,” says Curzan. Claire has qualified for the 100-meter butterfly and possibly the relays based on her performance in Tokyo. She is currently ranked fifth in the world in the 100-meter butterfly.

Before heading to Toyko, Claire has been in Hawaii the past few weeks, training with the full Olympic team. This was the first time they truly got to become a team. The newbies, like Claire, and veterans, like Katie Ledecky, get to meet and learn from each other before heading to the big show. Claire turned 17 while in Hawaii, making her the third-youngest swimmer on the team, out of 26 females and 53 swimmers total.

Watching from the states

While unable to watch her compete in person in her first Olympic race due to COVID restrictions, the Curzans are heading to Orlando this week to participate in the Olympic family watch party at Universal Studios. It’s safe to say they are her number one fans and will be cheering her on in Toyko and for the rest of her life. Saying Dr. Curzan is proud of his daughter is an understatement. “Getting there is as good as a medal for me. The value of the experience is priceless,” he says.

The entire Cary Orthopaedics family will be cheering on our hometown favorite Claire Curzan. Swimming starts this weekend, so join us! Follow the schedule here on NBC.