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BYU swimmer’s Olympic dreams delayed again by postponement of Tokyo Games

Josue Dominguez qualified for the Rio Games in 2016, but chose to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instead; a native of the Dominican Republic, Dominguez qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics recently, but now must wait until 2021 to compete in Japan

BYU swimmer Josue Dominguez gets in some laps.
Jaren Wilkey, BYU

PROVO — Look anywhere in the Dominican Republic, and you will see children and teenagers playing baseball. It is easily the favored sport of the Caribbean nation, and has produced Major League baseball stars such as sluggers Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz and Vladimir Guerrero and pitchers Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez.

Growing up in Santiago De Los Caballeros, BYU’s Josue Dominguez was a fish out of water, in a way. Or maybe it was the opposite, because he took to the water like a fish.

Dominguez preferred swimming to the country’s pastime.

Dominguez got so good at the sport as a teenager — in the breaststroke — that he actually qualified to represent his country in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But he never went to Brazil.

Instead, Dominguez chose to go on a mission to Puebla, Mexico, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It was a hard decision, but after a lot of prayer I decided to go on my mission because I knew I could quality for the Tokyo (Japan) Olympics in 2020 when I got back,” he said.

Dominguez did just that; As a freshman at BYU last April, he won the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke titles at the 2019 Dominican Swimming Federation National Swimming Championships in Santo Domingo, D.R. He was second in the 50-meter freestyle.

Last November, Dominguez broke a 21-year-old BYU record — the longest-standing BYU swim record in the books — with a time of 1 minute, 55.97 seconds in the 200-yard breaststroke at the Missouri Invite. He also is the school record-holder in the 100-yard breaststroke (52.90).

Dominguez said a few years ago he met the old record-holder, Byron Shefchik, who swam a 1:56.70 in 1998.

“He told me, ‘hey man, I know you can break my record,’” Dominguez said. “He encouraged me. I was trying really hard to do it, and when I did it was a really good feeling.”

Dominguez swam an Olympic “B” standard in the 100-meter breaststroke, a tentative pass to represent the Dominican Republic in the Olympics pending approval from his country’s governing body of swimming.

“I was so excited to represent my country and BYU in Japan,” he said.

But on March 24, the Tokyo Games were postponed a year due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, known formally as COVID-19. So Dominguez has to shelve his Olympic dream for at least another year — again.

“At the beginning I wanted the Olympics to be this year; I was disappointed,” he said. “But then seeing how the virus has been affecting the whole world, I think the decision the International Olympic Committee made about postponing the Olympics is the best one for all of us.”

Dominguez hasn’t been sure if his times will carry over into 2021, or if he will have to re-qualify. However, International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams told USA Today in late March that qualified athletes do not have to re-qualify.

“I am sure I can go faster and hit the times I need to hit,” he said. “It just gives me one more year to prepare. I am excited about it still and I plan to do better next year than I was going to do this year.”

In March, every pool in Utah County was closed, including BYU’s Richards Building Pool, renovated and reopened in the fall of 2018. So Dominguez, who is still living in Provo during the pandemic because people are not allowed to travel into, or out of, the D.R., has had to “get creative” to keep up his training.

This year’s D.R. national championships, which were scheduled for next week, have been indefinitely postponed.

“When we are swimming, we work out, like, our whole body at once, basically,” he said. “There are some muscles we use in the pool the we don’t use anywhere else. So I think having that intense workout in the water is important. I think not having that is kinda pushing me back in some ways.”

Dominguez has been swimming since he was 5 years old and his father, Jorge Dominguez, put him and his brother on the club team Academia Deportiva Acuatica coached by Robert Nunez. When he was 15 or 16, a missionary told him about BYU’s swimming team, and he made that his goal.

Later, he ran into former BYU swimmer Rafael Alfaro at a meet, and the native of San Salvador who swam for that country in the 2012 Olympics alerted BYU coaches to the LDS prospect in baseball country.

“I’ve truly been blessed,” he said.

Dominguez is majoring in biochemistry, which also keeps him busy.

Other BYU swimmers or divers who had qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials were Tyler Edlefsen, Nathan Gonzales, Levi Jensen, Jared Shaw, Brynn Sproul, Connor Stirling and Mickey Strauss.