Childhood friends Brooke Henderson and Bailey Andison make Tokyo Olympics

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Bailey Andison had spent more than a year preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, with all her focus centring on qualifying for Canada's swimming team in June 2021.

Andison knew that qualifying would mean joining her childhood best friend Brooke Henderson in Tokyo, since the golfer was a shoo-in to be nominated to Canada's Olympic team. But Andison also realized that Henderson could opt out of the Tokyo Games for health reasons or because they're in the midst of the LPGA's travel-heavy calendar.

"It occurred to me a few weeks before trials. I didn't even think about Brooke not going. It's been such a it's such a tough year and things have been so all over the place," said Andison. "So I texted her and I was like, 'what's the plan? Like, do you know if you're gonna go yet?'"

Henderson remembers the exchange too. "I said, 'Yeah, I'm definitely going if you're going.'"

That pact between the two friends motivated Andison, who will represent Canada in the 200-metre individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics. She finished third at the Canadian Olympic Trials in the discipline with a time of two minutes 10.48 seconds. However, a 2:09.9 in the event at the Speedo Sectionals in Indianapolis in March was better than Kelsey Wog's time (2:10.21) in the national trials final.

As a result, Andison was named to Canada’s Olympic team in the 200 IM while Wog qualified to race the 100 and 200 breast in Tokyo.

"It gave me that extra little push in the trials knowing that (Henderson and I) would both be able to be there," Andison said.

When her nomination to Canada's Olympic team was official, Andison texted Henderson the good news. Henderson, in turn, posted a glowing tribute on her Instagram account, praising her friend's accomplishment.

"It's been her dream since as long as I can remember to be an Olympian and represent Canada," Henderson said weeks later. "Just to see all the hard work that she's put in to get this far.

"She really deserves it, and I couldn't be more proud of her."

The pair met in junior kindergarten at Lombardy Public School, in Lombardy, Ont. Although Henderson grew up in nearby Smiths Falls, Ont., her father Dave taught at Lombardy, so she went to school in the smaller rural community.

Andison and Henderson were fast friends, although not united by their budding love of sports.

"We were just kind of glued at the hip when we were little and we've stayed friends our whole lives," said the 23-year-old Andison. "It's not uncommon for that to happen in a small town."

They try to see each other every Christmas — although COVID-19 restrictions derailed their plans this past December — and are in regular touch by text and social media.

Andison believes that it helps their friendship that they're both elite athletes but aren't competing in the same sport.

"We genuinely enjoy each other's company; we make each other laugh endlessly and that's why we're friends. It just so happened, that we are both excelling in our respective sports," said Andison. "It makes it all the more fun that we were we were never competitors.

"We were never compared to each other. We're just friends who happen to be athletes."

They have been able to find some common ground when it comes to their careers, however.

"I remember having a conversation with Brooke about drug testing one time. That's just one little thing that you the average person might not be able to relate to," said Andison, who admits she doesn't know that much about golf.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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