After years of training and a tragic loss, Annie Lazor is an Olympian.
On Friday, the 26-year-old swimmer from Michigan secured the bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke, placing behind South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker and United States teammate and friend Lilly King, who won silver. First-time gold medalist Schoenmaker's win made history as she set a world record with her 2:18.95 time.
Making the circumstances even sweeter, the athletes were seen embracing in the pool after finishing the race, a symbol of touching camaraderie at the highest level of the sport.
"Before and after, we're friends," Lazor said during a "Today" show interview, "and when it's happening, we're fierce competitors."
Reflecting on their support of each other, the American swimmer explained, "When you look up and you see someone who's done something that's never been done before, you can't feel anything other than, 'Wow, I can't believe I was just there for that and I can't believe that I also had the swim of my life swimming next to her.'"
Watch all the action from the Tokyo Olympics live on NBC
Indeed, Lazor's bronze marks her first Olympic medal, a triumph that comes three months after an unexpected personal tragedy. In late April, she announced to fans that her father David Lazor had died.
"I thought of him, not a lot before I swam, but a lot after I swam," she shared on "Today." "I kind of had a minute to sit to myself today and just thought he would only care about the result because I cared about the result."
The rankings made no difference to her dad.
"He just loved watching me do what I love," she said, "so whether I got third or last today or broke a world record, he just would have loved to see me afterwards and get a nice meal with me."
While he's no longer with her physically, his impact on her remains.
"To get a bronze is amazing," she acknowledged, "but to know that he had that kind of love for me that transcended any kind of results--it was all I needed."
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)