POOL PRO

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Jeff Met­calfe

Breeja Lar­son checks re­sults Thurs­day at a TYR Pro Swim Se­ries meet in Mesa. The Val­ley na­tive makes a liv­ing from pro swimming and still has her eyes on the Olympics.

The years click by at the TYR Pro Swim Se­ries meet in Mesa. Swim­mers come and go. The qual­ity of the field varies de­pend­ing on dis­tance to the next Olympics.

Breeja Lar­son, though, re­mains a con­stant in her home­town.

Lar­son con­tin­ues to make a liv­ing from pro swimming even though she failed to qual­ify for a sec­ond Olympics in 2016. She re­mains op­ti­mistic about her abil­ity to qual­ify for ma­jor in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions but also re­al­is­tic about the even­tu­al­ity of a post-swimming life.

“I would love to have my sights set on 2020,” Lar­son said Thurs­day. “My train­ing is go­ing great. I haven’t quite hit the right speed at the right time, which has been kind of a bum­mer. But I still re­ally en­joy it and I’m still sup­ported by spon­sors so I might as well keep go­ing un­til they stop pay­ing me.

“I will never ask fam­ily to sup­port me fi­nan­cially. Once I can’t sup­port my­self, I’m done swimming. But I still think I have a lot to of­fer and through swim clin­ics and speak­ing en­gage­ments, I’ve been able to sup­port my­self pretty well. I love the sport. It’s very whole­some. There’s a lot of great peo­ple so I’m go­ing to keep stick­ing around.”

The big ques­tion is whether Lar­son can make a U.S. team for the 2018 Pan Pa­cific or 2019 world cham­pi­onships or ul­ti­mately the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She was just 20 when she won a re­lay gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and was sixth in the 100-me­ter breast­stroke and will turn 26 on Mon­day.

There have some sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ments in be­tween – par­tic­u­larly dur­ing her college ca­reer at Texas A&M – but noth­ing to match her un­ex­pected run to the Lon­don Olympics.

Af­ter fail­ing to qual­ify for the Rio Games, Lar­son de­cided to move back to Ari­zona and train at Phoenix Swim Club with coaches Gar­rett McCaf­frey and Joey Mor­gan. She grew up in Mesa, swimming for Mesa Aquat­ics Club and at Moun­tain View High School.

“I re­ally like swimming with younger kids,” Lar­son said. “I like that I can go and just train. I don’t have to hear about any of the out­side world swimming drama or who’s do­ing what. It’s just high school kids there to have fun. They’re great train­ing bud­dies.”

Lar­son be­lieves McCaf­frey’s racepace train­ing pro­gram is what she needs at this point of her ca­reer.

“In college they do a lot more yardage and I was just so tired all the time,” she said. “I didn’t have any en­ergy or will to do any­thing else. Now my qual­ity of life has gone up. I can man­age to swim and still go the same times or faster and do all the things I want on the side.”

Her life out of the pool is busy. She teaches an on­line sports man­age­ment class at Grand Canyon Univer­sity. She also men­tors younger ath­letes through the Rise Elite pro­gram and con­ducts swim clin­ics.

PATRICK BREEN/THE REPUB­LIC

PATRICK BREEN/THE REPUB­LIC

Breeja Lar­son swims in the 200-me­ter breast­stroke at the Sky­line Aquatic Cen­ter dur­ing the TYR Pro Swim Se­ries in Mesa on Thurs­day.

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