SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – You probably know the names of quite a few more swimmers today than you did a few weeks ago: gold medalists Caeleb Dressel, Lydia Jacoby and Chase Kalisz, to name but a few.
There’s one more that you may want to memorize: Gaby Van Brunt.
Even though the Savannah native is not at the Olympics yet, she very well could be in a few years after competing in the 2020 Olympic trials.
“I just looked back up at the clock and saw my time and I just couldn’t believe it,” said Van Brunt about the swim that qualified her for the trials. “This is really my dream and I did it.”
That dream came true at just 15 years old for the rising St. Andrew’s School junior, who went to Omaha with a chance at qualifying for the 100-meter fly event.
“I saw my face on the big screen up there and I was like ‘I’m really here, I’m really at Olympic trials.’”
Van Brunt earned her way into those trials by beating the qualifying time of 1:00.69 when she was just 13 years old. Then, Van Brunt had to wait two years because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID messed up our practices a little bit but I think coming out of that it made me so much mentally stronger going into the swim.” Van Brunt said.
Van Brunt finished fifth in her prelim and did not advance, but that doesn’t mean she thinks of her time at the trials as a failure in any way.
“I knew that I was swimming for myself and that I didn’t have to prove it to anybody,” Van Brunt said. “I just wanted to give it my best and I didn’t let anybody down.”
While the nation cheers for Team USA swimming in Tokyo, Van Brunt can claim to have been closer to the swimmers than just about anyone.
“I warmed up the pool for them,” Van Brunt said. “It was definitely crazy to think about.”
By the time 2024 comes, it’s possible that other people will be warming up the pool for Van Brunt’s swim to the Olympics.
“I’ve just been thinking about qualifying again, seeing what I can do better and just trying to place better in the meet,” Van Brunt said.
When she’s not competing for a spot in the Olympics, Van Brunt is filling up the trophy case at St. Andrew’s. She won three GISA swim titles last year while competing for the Lions: the fifty-yard freestyle, the hundred-yard butterfly and the hundred-yard backstroke.