Bend high schooler Tommy Brewer is one of the rising stars of swimming. Only 15, Brewer qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 200m breaststroke, the first of what will likely be many Olympic Trials. Brewer gained an enormous amount of experience at the meet, both in the pool and in dealing with the crowd, the media exposure, and the sheer enormity of the U.S. Olympic swimming scene. Tommy spoke with 1859 prior to the Trials about what making the Trials means for his career and what his future goals are.
Name: Tommy Brewer
Sport/Event: Swimming- 200m Breaststroke
Hometown: Boston, MA
Current Residence: Bend, OR
Years competing: Ten
How did you get started in your sport?
I got started when my sister Madi started swimming. I was getting bored just sitting around the pool so I thought I’d give swimming a try. My mom is a swim coach so that also probably propelled me to give swimming a try.
What are some notable highs from your career?
I broke the national record in the 11/12-year-old 200 freestyle relay. This year I got the Olympic Trial standard in the 200m breaststroke at age fifteen. When I was ten I won my first state event in the 50m Breaststroke.
What is the lowest point you've experienced? How did you bounce back?
The lowest point of my career would actually be when we moved to Bend from Ohio. The swim team here didn’t have quite what I was looking for and I became discouraged with my results. I was just not having fun with swimming anymore, really.
I was ready to quit swimming and go back to playing baseball or something when one day my mom said that she was starting a new team. I told her right then, “Mom, I am going with you.” I started swimming with her program, and I swam faster and began enjoying the sport again.
What are your goals, both short term and long term?
My short term goals would be to make the junior national team. As part of the team I could compete at the Junior Pan-Pacific Championships. I would also like to be competing at more national level meets than I have in the past.
My long term and biggest goal is to hopefully qualify for the Olympics. It’s a long shot for anyone to make the team, but if I train hard and give it everything that I possibly can, who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky.
Would 2012 be your first Olympic team?
The 2012 Olympic team would be my first team but my odds of making are rather bleak. I am only fifteen, so I still have some growing up and maturing to do, whereas my competitors will be in college or out of college and at the height of their physical capabilities. I am going to Trials this year to get some experience for four years from now when I will hopefully go back to make a run at the 2016 Olympic team.
What surprises have you experienced in your career?
Getting the Olympic trial standard was pretty surprising. I wasn’t quite sure if I would get the standard or not. Another surprise would have to be my first state victory. I was seeded at least twenty-fifth in the 50m breaststroke in prelims so I really had no hope or chance of making finals. In the prelims I swam two seconds faster than my qualifying time coming in and got seeded third going into finals. In the finals I somehow dropped two more seconds off my time and wound up winning the event.
What brought you to Oregon?
My dad, who had just finished a ten-year stint in the Air Force, was looking for a job. He was a doctor in the military, so he was looking for a local practice in a town that our family would enjoy. He was initially looking at Colorado Springs when one of his old friends from the Air Force called him and said he had just interviewed in Bend and accepted a job. My dad got an interview, came back, and said, “That’s it, we’re moving to Bend.”
When you're not training or competing, what do you like to do?
I play water polo. I hadn’t tried it until I moved to Bend. Now I compete with a team here during late summer. I also play for the Summit High School team.
Hobbies? Favorite restaurant? Favorite hangout?
My hobbies are swimming, eating, sleeping and skiing with my friends at Mt. Bachelor. My favorite restaurant is Chipotle and my favorite place to hang out is the great downtown we have here in Bend.
This being your first Olympic trials, can you tell us what that specific accomplishment means? What result are you looking to take away from these Trials?
For me, getting the Trial standard is amazing. It is what I have been working toward ever since I heard that my friends in Ohio were getting their cuts. It just shows me that if I do work hard and dedicate myself to those early morning practices and convince myself I can get that cut, I can. I am personally hoping to better my seed time. I would be ecstatic if I can better that time. Another great result would be to make the junior national team. I have to place in the top six among swimmers eighteen and under at Trials in order to qualify.
Are the Trials your biggest focus this year? If not, what is?
The Trials are actually not my biggest focus this year. My biggest focus is the Senior Sectionals meet a few weeks after Trials. I am swimming more events at Sectionals and I have a better chance of making the finals there, too.
How important is it to be exposed to high levels of competition (like at the Trials or other national/international meets)?
For me, it is a dream come true. I’ve been wishing and hoping for this for as long as I can remember. Hitting this higher level just proves to me that the training I am doing is working and all the time I have invested is worthwhile. There is nothing worse than putting so much time into something and having it not prove worthwhile
Do you have training partners in Bend?
I do. My main training partner is Doug Steinhauff. He is a senior at a different high school in town but he swims with our club team. He was my main competition during the high school season. We both did the same events at the high school state championship meet and both events were extremely close. It’s nice because he is exactly my speed, and he can actually out pace me in practice during our sprint sets.
Do you find that you are able to train effectively here?
Training in Bend is nice and I enjoy it. During the summer we swim outside so I get to work on my tan while I train. The only negative thing about it is the morning practices. Half the time it’s still only forty degrees outside when we dive in the water, so it’s pretty cold.
Overall, does living in Oregon aid or hurt your athletic goals?
I think living in Oregon aids my athletic goals. It’s just such a nice, active place to live that I don’t just swim. I do other activities such as biking and skiing, both of which help my swimming. There are so many things to do that I’m not constantly thinking about swimming. It helps me maintain balance so I don’t burn out or lose interest in the sport.