Written By: Tom Higdon
In the final moments of his collegiate swimming career, Brett Pinfold gave himself an ultimatum. It was 2017 and he had just placed 8th in the 200 free at the NCAA national championships swimming for Wisconsin. That year, the U.S. Summer nationals would be where they would select the members of the World Championships team. For Pinfold, it was make or break. Either make the team or hang up the goggles.
That year would prove to be a highly competitive one in the freestyle events. With Caeleb Dressel fresh off of his first Olympic appearance and Texas swimmer Townley Haas in his prime 200 freestyle years it would be an uphill battle to make the worlds team. A battle where the pendulum just didn’t swing in Brett’s favor.
Ultimately it was a financial decision for him to stop swimming after that. He was fresh out of college and needed to be able to support himself financially. It’s one thing to compete as a full time student but an entirely different thing to compete while holding down a full time job. So he took a step back. He worked and would race here and there for fun but wasn’t training anywhere near the same level that he had been accustomed to in years prior.
Years went by before he found himself watching the 2019 U.S. nationals, the same meet that helped him make his decision to step away from the sport all those years ago. It was a year where many of the Gold medal swims came from first time champions. It was also the year where Brett Pinfold decided he still had the itch and that it needed to be scratched. So, nine months out from the original scheduled date of Trials he reached out to his club coach to find out where he needed to go to get the results he wanted. That’s where the Texas A&M post grad group came in.
After the recommendation from his old club coach and a phone call with an old friend in the group, Pinfold began training for Trials. Training was progressing well and even after having to take yet another break from the pool during the Covid Pandemic he was in prime shape. He had already made his cut so the only meet he needed to stay focused on in that year and a half was Trials itself. When the day finally came to race the 100 free he surprised everyone, himself included. He saw a huge drop and had made it through to the semis. Then dropped even more time to break through into the final.
“I just thought: there's no way. This is crazy,” said Pinfold as he reflected on what it felt like to see such incredible results after such a long hiatus.
He remembers vividly walking behind the blocks for the final. Two years before he had been working as an IT system administrator in Housten, Texas but at that moment he was standing on the biggest stage in U.S Swimming as one of the nation’s best.
So what's next for Pinfold after trials? He was 7th in the final, just a single hundredth of a second away from the Olympic team. So it seems that the sky's the limit. He says that he will be making a run at the next trials in hopes of making the team for the Paris games. He has also been chosen to compete with the LA Current in the International Swimming League’s first ever draft.
None of it would be possible, according to Pinfold, if he hadn't taken that break. Sometimes you need to look at something other than a black line for a third of your day. Sometimes you need to take a step back to truly appreciate everything you love about the sport.
Personally, I am a huge supporter of continuing your swimming career once the eligibility runs out. It's impossible not to love a comeback story though, and Brett Pinfold’s comeback may be the best yet. Keep your eyes on him folks.
Brett Pinfold swam for the University of Wisconsin. In 2017 and he placed 8th in the 200 free at the NCAA national championships. He currently swims with Texas A&M as a part of their pro team along with competing in the ISL with LA Current. Brett most recently competed at Olympic Trials and placed 7th in finals.