Soon she'll be seeing herself in those ads.
Welcome to the big leagues.
"She's in an elite realm because of our sponsorship of her. There are very few professional swimmers out there," said
The sponsorship provides DiRado the financial security to focus full-time on the 2016 Summer Olympics in
"It's amazing. I really feel fortunate," DiRado said. "I'm being paid to do what I want to do anyway, so this is the best of both possible worlds."
Closing in on her Olympic dream demands top performances beginning with the 2014
A year ago, DiRado made the U.S. team for the World Championships. Remaining a fixture on the national team roster is her aim.
"I want to keep making those teams," she said. "It's really exciting."
Marketing specialists at
"A lot of it has to do with her maturity level," Basye said. "When she started to get some of the success, she realized she could compete at this level. From that point, you can see that trajectory."
The deal was done following a Pac-12 Women's Swimmer of the Year campaign as a
"She is what we consider one of the best athletes in her events in the world," Basye said.
What she is worth, Speedo would not disclose. The money is better than what a typical
Add the stipend
"It's more than enough to get by," she said. "It allows me to totally focus on swimming, which is really nice."
Among a dozen U.S. swimmers representing
"Personality is a really big component," Basye said. "She's a perfectionist, but she also has a great time. She's fun to be around. She's somebody that fits really well in all that we want to do with our athletes."
From photo shoots to public appearances and working with young swimmers, DiRado said she will have fun with the Speedo gig.
"It will be a blast," she said.
One benefit of representing Speedo is the gift bags DiRado receives several times a year. Some contain new gear for DiRado to sample and provide opinions. She also can ask for clothing from labels affiliated with
"I can wear a different suit every practice," DiRado said. "You swim well when you look good."
From her three-year run as All-Empire Girls Swimmer of the Year to the top of the
For the past three years, DiRado has competed internationally for
"She's with some of the best in the world,"
The greatest leap for DiRado has been over the past year.
Winning a national championship -- in the 400 IM -- and swimming three events at worlds raised even DiRado's already high expectations.
"She set the bar really high," Meehan said. "She had a great 2013 and just really carried that momentum into this year."
For DiRado, the process matters more than results.
"You have to make sure you get something out of everything you're putting in. Medals are great, but you can't control what other people are doing," she said. "If you're doing it the right way you'll be successful."
Two areas of improvement helped her go from All-American to
More distance training enabled her to finish races stronger. And a sharper breast stroke took her to the top of the podium in both the 200 IM and the 400 IM. DiRado also helped lead
Even more satisfying for DiRado was helping lead
"We outperformed. We definitely exceeded our team goals, and I met my goals," she said. "It was the perfect scenario."
Matching that highlight was going through graduation ceremonies. DiRado will complete a degree in management science in the fall quarter and wants to work in the financial field.
"I'm actually really excited to start working for real," she said.
For now, she is having fun and enjoying the rewards of swimming.
Even with the
"I like getting back and working hard and getting better," DiRado said.
At nationals, DiRado seeks to qualify for
Yet she feels little pressure.
"I'm generally not highly strung going into these events," DiRado said. "In college, I learned how to relax. Once you figure it out, the competition is quite nice."
Responding well when stakes are highest is a quality that makes DiRado a
"Medals is where we want people to be," Basye said. "We're pretty good at this."
The Olympics are two years away. DiRado is taking her approach one meet at a time.
Still, she is feeling good about the road ahead.
"The Olympics was a goal. It definitely feels closer," she said.
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