FAST's Countdown to Olympic Trials: Emily Brunemann

Only ten weeks remain until the start of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. FAST currently has seven swimmers qualified to compete. In the time remaining, our website will feature a weekly update that highlights one of these athletes. We hope this will impart wisdom to our younger swimmers and their families about the highest level of our sport. Sacrifices are made for success and challenges are endured for excellence. FAST is privileged to have wonderful role models right here in Fullerton.

Our first update features Emily Brunemann, an Olympic hopeful in both the 10K Open Water event and the 800-meter Freestyle. Next Friday, April 27th, Emily will compete in Open Water Nationals in Florida. The top two finishers will go on to compete at the Olympic Qualifier in Portugal, an international event from which the top American finisher earns a spot in the London Olympics. Please read on to learn more about Emily and her Olympic Dream.

Emily grew up in Kentucky where she swam for the Northern Kentucky Clippers and the Anderson Barracudas YMCA. Throughout high school she trained 10 to 11 times per week, regularly attending double practices. Her hard work paid off in the form of consistent improvement and her first National qualifying times. In the summer after her junior year of high school, Emily qualified for Nationals in the 400-meter IM and 400-meter Freestyle.

Emily earned a scholarship to the University of Michigan where she set University and Big Ten Conference records in all three of the distance freestyle events -- the 500 (4:39.60), 1,000 (9:36.67), and 1,650 (15:51.29). The most notable achievement of her collegiate career came in 2008 when she was the Division I NCAA Champion in the 1,650-yard Freestyle. Her winning time of 15:53.69 is, on average, 57.7 seconds per 100 yards!

During the summers of her collegiate career, Emily stayed in Ann Arbor to train with Club Wolverine and the legendary Coach Jon Urbanchek. It was under his guidance that she qualified for her first U.S. National Team in the summer of 2007 when she won the 1500-meter Freestyle (16:23.77 -- 12th in the world!) and placed 4th in the 800-meter Freestyle (8:37.77). For each of the five years since, Emily has been a member of the National Team in pool events, open water events, or both!

Given the nature of open water swimming -- 10K races last two hours or more -- distance freestylers are encouraged to try their hand in the sport. Emily rose to the challenge and attended USA Swimming's Open Water Select Camp in 2009. She had incredible success in her debut race, winning the 10K National title and qualifying for World Championships. At Worlds in Italy later that summer, she finished 24th in the 10K and 9th in the 5K. Emily enjoyed the new competitive environment and began to believe in her ability to reach the Olympic level in open water.

After graduating from Michigan in 2010, Emily moved to California in order to continue the pursuit of her Olympic Dream with Coach Urbanchek. At last year's Open Water Olympic Trials qualifier, Emily was in the lead pack for the duration of the race and finished sixth. The top two finishers went on to compete in China, but did not place high enough to claim an Olympic berth. Thus, Emily and the other American women have another chance to qualify for London. In a recent USA Swimming interview, Emily said, "I'm just really excited that I get a second chance. Not very many people say that they get a second chance for their dream."

Emily's second chance inspires her to train hard every day, despite the inevitable ups and downs that athletes endure. She focuses on eating well, keeping her shoulders healthy, and not worrying about things. Emily won two 10K World Cup races in China in October 2011 and placed 5th in a highly competitive 10K World Cup in Brazil in January 2012. These achievements have solidified her position as one of the best open water swimmers in the world and have given her confidence heading into this final opportunity for open water.

Good luck next week, Emily! FAST is cheering for you!

If you would or your swimmer(s) would like to learn more about Open Water swimming, the links below are a good place to begin.

USA Swimming - Open Water

The Daily News of Open Water Swimming