By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Over the past 12 months, Michael McBroom has become a changed man – and swimmer.
After swimming through a disappointing Olympic Trials last summer, the recent University of Texas graduate committed himself to change.
A change in strategy. A change in training. A change in attitude. A change in perception.
The result? Fast swims at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships in June, a spot on the U.S. World Championship Team and his first senior-level international medal at Worlds last month in Barcelona. Oh, and a new American record.
From his vantage point, McBroom is just touching the tip of the iceberg as far as what he knows he can still accomplish in the water.
“Trials were crummy for me last year, so I made changes to everything – strategy, what we did in the water leading up to a meet and what I did on dryland,” said McBroom, who competed at last winter’s Short Course World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, but admitted Worlds this summer did “not have the same feel as that meet.”
“I think the real difference was having and knowing a plan/strategy for the race and sticking to it no matter what and keeping my yardage up in taper. Before each event was just excitement, and I wanted to prove that I belonged there.”
During his silver-medal-winning race – finishing just seconds behind Olympic champion and world-record-holder Sun Yang of China – McBroom quickly knew he was in the zone.
Although mostly a blur, he said he remembers gaining on Sun at about the 500 meter mark, thinking he must be going fast – and then, with 100 meters to go, looking over and seeing Ryan Cochrane and Connor Jaeger and realizing he could medal.
“The last 50, I looked again and saw each of them (Cochrane and Jaeger) and thought that the United States was going to double medal, so I put my head down and went,” McBroom said. “It was all very exciting.”
“It felt awesome to mix my name in with all the previous greats (in setting the American record). Going into the final, I had a feeling that whichever American won would set the American Record. Both of us were under the old pace, so that was really cool and bodes well for American distance swimming.”
Born in Minneapolis, McBroom and his family moved to Austin when he was six and then to Chicago. He lived in the windy city for the next six years before returning to Texas.
He started swim lessons as a 2-year-old and swam summer league until he was 12, when his family moved to The Woodlands, Texas. He said that’s when he really became serious about the sport.
“I did not love it immediately; in fact, until about 14, I wanted to quit but I just never had the guts to,” said McBroom, who didn’t swim competitively until he was 12 at the advice of his parents, who both swam. “I remember when I was 8 or 9, I would hide from my mom before practices so I hopefully wouldn't have to go, but she made me because I had made the commitment.”
Still holding onto strong memories of his childhood, when it came time to choose a college and swim program, he selected the University of Minnesota instead of the home state Longhorns.
He spent his freshman year as a Golden Gopher but longed to return to his true “home state” school and swim as a Longhorn, so he transferred at the end of the spring semester in 2010.
“I think I had the opportunity for success in either program, but I know, for me, I made the right decision,” said McBroom, who won an individual NCAA title (1650) his sophomore year. “
“I loved the atmosphere here in Austin and the focus on certain goals that the team had. Also, I was thrilled by the opportunity to go swim for Eddie Reese and swim alongside some of the nation’s great distance swimmers.”
Since he missed the 2008 Olympic Trials due to injury (he was recovering from a torn ligament and tendon in his elbow incurred in a skateboarding accident), McBroom said he was incredibly excited and intrigued to see what he could accomplish last summer at Olympic Trials back in Omaha.
Having dreamed of being an Olympian since he was 14, he approached the meet with the sincere belief that he could make the team. But after finishing out of the top two in both of his events (7th in the 1500 and 8th in the 400 freestyles), realized he still had a lot to learn and a lot of work to do to get there.
“I just learned to shut up and listen to Eddie more,” said McBroom, who graduated from Texas this past May with his degree in government/political science. “I always tried to add a little twist to what he was thinking for training in the water or go out a little faster in a race. He has more swimming knowledge than I ever will, but I still get a lot of input for the dryland routine.”
Now that he has his degree and a plan – wanting to get involved with political consulting, public opinion polling and/or market analysis – McBroom said he plans to keep swimming, at least for this next year, and see where it takes him, especially after his success this summer in Spain.
He said he plans to stay and train in Austin with Eddie and his Longhorn Aquatics teammates and continue to chase his Olympic dream.
“Swimming in the Olympics is something I’ve wanted since I was little, but it was my club coach, Tim Bauer, who made me realize that I could do something special in swimming, and from that belief in myself, I have continuously progressed,” McBroom said.
“I have the confidence that I need, I think. The trick is going to be to keep that up over these next three years and keep swimming well to bring that momentum into Trials in 2016.”