Jessica Hardy wasn’t expecting her longtime boyfriend to propose, even when he took a romantic route along the Pacific Coast Highway on their way to a dinner date in Malibu. Not even when he stopped along the way, inviting her down to the beach to watch the setting sun from one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.
Then, just as the sun was slipping beneath the horizon, he popped the question.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
“It was the prettiest thing in the world,” Hardy said, still sounding downright giddy as she talked about the recent engagement to Swiss Olympic swimmer Dominik Meichtry.
But before they make wedding plans, there’s some unfinished business at the pool.
Four years ago, Hardy qualified for a spot on the U.S. Olympic swimming team, only to have what was then the greatest moment of her life snatched away by a positive test for a banned substance. There would be no trip to Beijing, no glorious climb to the top of the medal stand. Instead, she was stuck at home – angry, depressed and determined to clear her name.
Eventually, an arbitration panel agreed with Hardy’s contention that a tainted nutritional supplement was to blame for her result. Instead of the usual two-year ban that goes to dopers on their first offense, she was suspended for half as long. Still, that did little to ease the pain of missing out on her first Olympics.
Rest assured, no one is more eager to get to London than this 25-year-old Californian.
“Ever since then, I’ve been licking my wounds and recovering and finding my peace of mind again,” Hardy said. “I’m putting my body armor back on again. I’m pulling out my sword for battle. I’m really, really, really ready for this summer. I get another chance to fulfill the life dream I’ve been chasing for so long.”
Disappointing performances in major meets followed her suspension. Turns out, the struggles more mental than physical.
“Looking back, I don’t know how I survived a lot of those days,” Hardy said. “That was the lowest point in my entire life. I didn’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Hardy knows there are those who will always look at her with a skeptical eye, who will wonder if she’s nothing more a doper who got caught. While she continues to insist she has never knowingly put a banned substance in her body – she’s not spending any more time pleading her case.
She tested positive. She paid a heavy price.
Her focus is on these Olympics, not the games she missed.
“To me, it’s just about moving forward and looking forward to the opportunity I’ve been given rather than worrying about any negativity that comes my way,” Hardy said.