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