PROVO — Josue Dominguez was disappointed, sad, and maybe even a little bit angry when he heard the news.
Not the news that the NCAA had canceled the national swim and dive championships this year; his BYU teammates only had one swimmer qualified — All-American sophomore Jared Shaw — and while the meet’s cancellation was a disappointment for each of them, there’s still time to make it back.
But Dominiguez was a bit saddened when he learned a few weeks later that the Summer Olympics in Tokyo were being postponed.
The BYU junior breaststroke specialist had already qualified to represent his native country of the Dominican Republic in the Summer Games, so postponement was disappointing; it was for a lot of future Olympians. It was made a little better, however, when he learned that all the qualifying times — including his own “B” standard that netted him a spot on the Olympic team — would carry over when the games resume July 23, 2021.
“It was an amazing feeling when I did (qualified),” Dominiguez told KSL.com during a taping of the Campus Report podcast. “I was swimming really well during the season, and I knew I could do it, in my mind.
“I just went out of the block full of confidence, swam as fast as I could, and when I hit the wall to see the time, I knew it. I couldn’t believe I had gone that fast.”
The biggest disappointment of Dominguez’s athletic career to date had little to do directly with COVID-19 and the NCAA’s championship cancellations. It even had little to do with his school year being moved around, forcing all of his classes moved online while he studies and attends school via Zoom from his apartment in Provo.
He’s staying there as a precaution from the virus, which has infected more than 2,000 confirmed cases in his home country, with 108 confirmed deaths — a 5% death rate that ranks among the highest per capita in the world.
So swimming and sports is on the back burner, even for the Cougar standout. And Dominguez and his national teammates were even a bit relieved a few weeks ago.
They were relieved by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to defer the games to next year. Just a few days after the NCAA canceled the championship meet, BYU also closed down the Richards Building pool where he trained. Pools across Utah — and the country — followed suit.
“We were still practicing, and I was preparing for the national championships in my country,” said Dominguez, before adding the Dominican Republic’s national championships were also suspended. “We were kind of disappointed, but then we managed it well.”
For a swimmer who has been in the water since he was 4 years old, at the request of his cousin Robert Nunez, who coached him with Academia Deportiva Acuatica in his hometown of Santiago, Dominguez knew he’d get another shot at everything.
Right now, during a pandemic and public health crisis, people’s health and combatting a virus that has brought much of the world to a standstill takes precedent. His sadness over his sports’ cancellation? That’ll pass.
Really, the disappointment was for the Olympics, for missing out on another chance to represent his homeland on the world’s biggest stage.
Yes, another chance.
This isn’t the first time Dominguez has had to delay his Olympic aspirations.
Prior to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dominguez was a rising 18-year-old swimming star in his home country. He had already qualified with a B-standard, a mark that most countries can elect to use in sending athletes to the games and a federation the size of the Dominican Republic usually chooses.
But Dominguez faced another challenge: at 18, he was preparing to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Postponing his mission would mean going to Rio — but it could also mean delaying his call, postponing his service, and may affect his NCAA eligibility clock. After a fateful meeting with former BYU swimmer Rafael Alfaro at the Central America Games, and several rounds of prayer and talking to his family, Dominguez elected to go on a mission first — which allowed him to take the SAT and TOEFL exams while he recovered at home from knee surgery, BYU coach John Brooks said.
“He wanted to make sure to finish his mission first,” Brooks added. “Who gives up going to the Olympics to go on a mission? This guy does.”
Dominguez faced a choice — and he chose his faith, opting out of the Dominican national team for the 2016 Summer Games and opting in to a two-year call in the Mexico Puebla South mission.
Instead of leaping off the blocks with the world’s best swimmers, he chose to tocar puertas and predicar el evangelio with his companion for 24 months.
“I don’t regret anything,” Dominguez said. “Everything I learned on a mission, it made an assurance that it was the right decision to make.”
When he returned home, that example served him well. Dominguez enrolled at BYU, and quickly became one of the program’s top sprinters. He currently owns the school record in the 100-meter breaststroke (52.69 seconds) and the 200 breaststroke (1:55.97), and he has his eyes set on breaking the record in the 200 freestyle medley and 200 medley relay with his teammates, as well.
“He’s just a very down-to-earth, simple guy — he’s what we all should be like,” Brooks said. “He’s humble, hard working, respectful; he checks off every box. He’s an outstanding guy.” Dominguez also wants to make it to the NCAA championship meet. He’s never qualified, and he finished just six spots outside the top-30 mark in his events this year after racing ill in the final qualifier at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships.
“I knew I could go faster,” he said. “Next year, I’m going to make it. It’s my first goal.”
That, in addition to his Olympic aspirations — still forthcoming.