During the 1996 Summer Olympics, a young 8-year-old Candice Peak watched American Whitney Hedgepeth medal in both the 100 and 200-meter backstroke. Instantly hooked, from that moment on she knew that she wanted to become a swimmer.Fast forward to the present and Peak, a 2008 U.S. Olympic Trial qualifier in both the 100 and 200-yard backstroke, is a star on the No. 17-ranked University of Wisconsin women’s swim team.During her junior year, Peak has broken onto the scene with 10 first-place finishes, including a victory over top ranked Arizona in the 200-yard backstroke and a recent victory over UW-Green Bay when she swept all three of her events.“I wasn’t in the spotlight the past two years, but I’ve welcomed the responsibility of being one of the better people on the team and being a leader,” Peak said.Coaches and teammates have taken notice of Peak’s recent success. Head coach Eric Hansen commented on her work ethic and her consistent performance at a high level.“She’s shown her potential in a lot of different races,” senior captain Jen Illescas said. “Things you wouldn’t even expect her to be good at, she’s good at.”Despite all these victories, Peak is not an overnight phenomenon. She has shown steady improvement over her first two years of collegiate swimming. Her freshman year, she finished 21st at the Big Ten Championships in both the 100 and 200-yard backstroke. Last year she placed fifth in the 200-yard backstroke, ninth in the 100-yard backstroke and 11th in the 200-yard individual medley. This year as a junior she has emerged to become one of the top swimmers in the Big Ten.Obviously this season Peak has become a huge difference maker in the pool, but her contribution to the team outside of the water has been just as significant.“The freshman and sophomores look up to her as a role model,” Illescas said. “She’s really a great support.”Her added role as one of the team leaders does not seem to faze Peak one bit. She has not buckled under the pressure and openly embraces her new position.“I wouldn’t say pressure. I kind of welcome it; I like to be a leader,” Peak said.Peak has learned from her experiences over the past two years that patience is the key.“I put in so many hours, and sometimes it gets really frustrating when I don’t see results right away,” Peak said. “I’ve learned to be patient with training and trusting the coaches with what they say.”The relationship between Peak and Hansen is a two-way street of mutual admiration and respect. Peak said Hansen recruited her to come to Wisconsin, and she probably wouldn’t be here without him.“My relationship has grown over the past few years because I’ve put so much trust in the coaches,” Hansen said. “They know so much about this sport; they love this sport so much that it makes you want to come in every day and work hard.”Hansen said Peak has the opportunity to bring home a Big Ten Championship and maybe even an NCAA Championship. He stated that she just has to keep showing up and do what she has been doing.“If she just keeps working on her details and she gets that down, the sky’s the limit for her,” Hansen said.This past weekend Peak competed in the Big Ten Quad Duals against Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois. Although her Badgers were narrowly beaten by the Golden Gophers, Peak recorded a second place finish in the 100-yard backstroke. Her performance will serve as a solid building block in her goal to bring home a title later this month at the Big Ten Women’s Championships.Outside of swimming, Peak keeps herself busy with schoolwork and her economics major. She is still unsure of what she would like to do after her swimming career comes to an end.“I would like to coach at some point, whether that’s at a high school level or at a college level,” Peak said. “As of right now I’m deciding if I want to go to grad school or straight to the workforce or law school, not totally sure what I want to do. There are a number of options that I have.”If all goes well Peak’s career might not come to an end after next year. Who knows, she just might have young 8-year-olds watching as she takes home her own medals in the 2012 Summer Olympics.