Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
West Valley City Councilwoman Carolynn Burt is the only person from Utah who will officiate at the 2008 U.S. Olympic swim trials in Nebraska. Swimmers at the meet will vie for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in Beijing this summer.

WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley City Councilwoman Carolynn Burt was somewhere behind the scenes at the 2000 Olympic trials for swimming when Olympic gold-medalist Dana Torres stepped onto the starting block.

Burt remembers Torres saying to her, "Why have you got that wicked little grin on your face, Carolynn?" and her reply, as Utah's only swim official ever to be invited to judge the U.S. Olympic swimming trials: "Because I'm here."

Judging aspiring Olympians, and sometimes taking away their dreams, is a tremendous job to do, but it's also an honor, Burt says. That's why this summer, for the second time, Burt will return to judge the fastest swim meet in the United States, and she couldn't be more excited.

"You can't even apply for that meet," Burt said of the 2008 Olympic trials for swimming, which will take place from June 29 to July 6 in Nebraska. "You just get a letter. There are 10,000 officials and 50 very privileged people got a letter inviting them to come to the trials. I feel very privileged and honored."

Burt's history with swimming started almost 30 years ago, when her 5-year-old grandson started to swim competitively. She volunteered at her first meet in Provo when she sat in the stands and there weren't enough officials to continue the competition.

"They assumed I knew more than I did," Burt says, and she was recruited to help. From there, she continued from meet to meet, eventually earning her certification, embarking on a decades-long involvement with swimming that carried on long after her grandson stopped swimming.

"This wasn't something I purposely chose to do," Burt said. "It was something that evolved because I was so thrilled with the sport. I had a grandson who was an excellent swimmer from a little team that ... wouldn't pay to have a coach go with him to the meets he could qualify for. I thought, that little boy is going to have someone on that deck, and if it's not going to be his coach, then it's going to be me."

Cory Sinclair, now 32, well remembers seeing his grandmother almost all of his swim meets growing up, but it wasn't until Sinclair was older that he realized his grandmother's accomplishment.

"As I got older I started to realize as I started to advance in my swimming career, being qualified to enter more elite meets, she was invited also, which made me realize that she was equally, if not more so, impressive in her ability to advance in swimming," Sinclair said. "It doesn't surprise me now because I know how much integrity she has and how important it is to her, but when I was younger, I didn't understand."

One of Sinclair's most poignant memories of Burt's involvement at his swim meets was at his last collegiate dual meet at the University of Utah. Burt was an official, and she disqualified Sinclair for false-starting during a relay.

Instead of feeling upset, Sinclair says he was proud. He never doubted if his grandmother was right.

"She obviously feels very bad about that because she felt like she was taking something away from me, but she wasn't, at all," Sinclair said. "She wants to make sure everyone has a fair chance, and it doesn't matter who it is. From her grandson on down, she wants to make sure everyone has an equal chance."

That desire for equality is something that qualifies Burt to enter one of the most intense scenarios possible in U.S. swimming. Lots of other volunteers wouldn't be able to stand the pressure, says Debby Fleisch, former chairwoman of Utah Swimming, a local affiliate of USA Swimming.

"We're very proud of Carolynn," Fleisch said. "It's a great thing she was invited, because it's an honor, but it's a great honor for the state of Utah, also. Utah isn't really strong in swimming ... so for our state, it's a great thing to have someone that's made it that far."


E-mail: [email protected]