Thomas Vanderbrook graduated from Indiana University last month, and having achieved an academic goal will now shoot for an athletic one when he swims Monday at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha in the hopes of making the team for Tokyo.
Vanderbrook, 22, will swim in the men’s 200 individual medley in what is called Wave I of the swimming trials, basically a wild card round. If he finishes in the top two today, he will move on to Wave II a week later, also in Omaha, from which the Olympic team for Tokyo will be selected.
Vanderbrook is bisexual and wrote a powerful coming out story for Outsports in February on his struggles and how he finally achieved peace as an out athlete.
“I’m not afraid of being who I am,” he wrote. “Not afraid of loving whom I want to love. As I am into my senior year at IU, I have a clear mind. I’ve never felt happier. I’ve never felt more confident. I’ve felt more like my true self.
“I didn’t regret anything I had done during my coming out journey. It might seem odd to say but I enjoyed it, I really did, because it made me a stronger person. It made me appreciate life a lot more. I was able to breathe again.
“I’ve learned it’s important to take your time in your journey and take care of yourself, especially your mental health. Concealing one’s sexuality takes up a lot of effort and energy.”
Vanderbrook is clearly enjoying his time at the Trials and I loved this picture he took with his camera’s self-timer at the venue. He at first asked me to not run it since he’s “such a goofball,” but I convinced him that the photo shows total joy at such a great accomplishment of making the Trials.
Update: Vanderbrook finished seventh in his 200 IM final heat and will not be going to Wave II.
“I didn’t swim my best (in the Trials 200 IM), but I’m OK with that,” he told USA Swimming. “I’ve had an absolute blast this whole Trials experience. I keep having a smile on my face here. Earlier this afternoon, I was going through photos and videos from over my past four years and even before then, and it brought chills and tears to my eyes. It made me realize that I’m done, but I have truly loved every single moment, even through the ups and downs. I couldn’t be prouder of myself and the people around me.”
How much fun did Vanderbrook have at the Trials? While the other competitors were super-serious as they approached the starting blocks, Vanderbrook and an Indiana teammate formed their own mini-conga line.
As USA Swimming put it, “Conga-lining to the blocks, along with cracking a smile, laugh and dance before stepping up to the blocks, is a testament of Vanderbrook’s confidence in himself and the relationships he has built with his teammates.”