Erika Brown is a competitive swimmer and 2021 Olympian who competes for the United States. She is extremely versatile, registering elite times in freestyle, butterfly, and IM events during her time as a Tennessee Volunteer.
She started her competitive swimming in Pleasanton, California with the Pleasanton Seahawks. When her family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, she swam with SwimMAC Carolina and William Amos Hough High School. In North Carolina, she won 2 state championship titles in the 200 free and 400 free relay. She also earned a bronze medal in the 200m free at the 2014 and 2015 USA Swimming junior national championships.
Erika performed well in her first year as a Vol, but didn’t quite reach her best times in her specialty 100 or 200 freestyles. She scored at the SEC championships, placing 10th in the 50 (22.33), 18th in the 100 free (49.53), and 17th in the 200 free (1:46.49). She was also a member of 4 relays, all of which placed 7th or higher.
At NCAA’s, she joined Tennessee as a relay member, and earned her first honorable mention All-America honors as a member of the 13th place 400 free relay.
After her freshman campaign, Erika told SwimSwam she realized she needed to invest in her teammates if she was going to reach her full potential and truly contribute to the team. The results of this mentality were first shown to the world in December at Tennessee’s mid season invite, where she notched best times in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 back, 100 fly, and 200 fly. Notably, she went 50.33 in the 100 fly, a time that led the NCAA and beat her best from the previous season by 5 seconds.
At the 2018 SEC championships, signs of Erika’s progress really came to light, as Erika swept her individual events in the 50 free (21.39), 100 free (47.17), and her now signature 100 fly (49.85). Her time in the 100 fly made her only the 2nd woman to break the 50 second barrier in history.
Brown also helped Tennessee win the 200 medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 medley relay with scorching splits of 20.81 (free), 21.40 (free) and 49.11 (fly). The lone ‘miss’ was an 800 free relay in which Brown led off in 1:43.54 and Tennessee took 3rd behind top-10 NCAA programs Georgia and Texas A&M.
At the 2019 SEC Champs, Brown continued her trajectory upwards, winning all 3 of her individual events. That included the 100 free (46.41), 100 fly (49.85), and 50 free (21.15), which she broke the NCAA record in.
At the NCAA’s, Brown placed 2nd in the 50 free (21.23), 4th in the 100 fly (50.38), and 5th in the 100 free (46.99). Although Brown didn’t win an individual event, she did help the Vols to a national relay title in the 200 medley relay, anchoring in 20.98 to hold off a hard charging Abbey Weitzeil of Cal. She also swam on the 7th place 400 free relay (47.28) and 6th place 200 free relay (21.35).
Brown had an electric start to her season, going best times in the 100 free (46.16), 200 free (1:41.66), and 100 fly (49.79) at the mid-season Tennessee invite in November 2019.
Brown kept the good times rolling after her showing at the US Open. To start off SEC’s, she helped Tennessee to titles in both the 200 medley relay (20.57, 3rd fastest split all-time) and 800 free relay (1:41.08, 2nd leg). On day 2, she 3-peated as the SEC Champion in the 50 free, breaking the SEC record with 21.03. The next night, Brown was back in the pool, breaking the American record in the 100 fly with a 49.38, putting her at the 3rd fastest performer of all-time. Brown saved the best for last, swimming to a 45.83 in the 100 free, becoming just the 2nd woman in history to break 46 seconds. Brown’s performances helped the Tennessee women to their first ever SEC team title.
For her performances at the SEC championships, Erika Brown earned the 2020 Swammy Award for NCAA Female of the Year.
2018 Short Course World Championships (Hangzhou, China)
In Hangzhou, Brown was an essential part of USA relays, swimming prelims of the 4×100 free and 4×50 medley relays which went onto win gold, as well as anchoring on the finals relays of the 4×50 (gold) and 4×200 (silver) free relays.
2019 US Open (Atlanta, Georgia)
Brown had big performance at the U.S. Open Championships. That includes winning the women’s 100 free in 53.42, beating out the defending World and Olympic Champion Simone Manuel. Coming into the meet, Brown’s best time was just 54.13, a time that was done at the 2018 US National Championships.
This time made Brown the 8th-fastest American in the history of the event, and the 4th-fastest active American at the time (based on times done in the 2010s by swimmers who have not formally retired).
2021 Olympic Trials (Omaha, Nebraska)
After a slow start to the meet that saw Brown miss qualifying for semi-finals in both the 100 fly and 200 free, the Tennessee Vol turned it around on Day 5. Swimming in the 100 free, she made it through to semi-finals and qualified 8th at night by .02 to make the final heat. The next night, Brown dropped over half a second from the previous night to touch for 2nd place at 53.59, qualifying her for her first Olympic team in the 100 free and 4×100 free relay.
2021 Olympic Games
Brown started her meet off in the 4×100 free relay on Day 1, leading off the finals relay. Brown split 54.02, helping the US to a bronze medal.
Brown was back for the individual 100 free, where she moved through the prelims and placed 13th in the semin-finals at 53.58.
Brown completed her Olympic program in the prelims of the 400 medley relay, splitting 52.83 on the anchor leg to help USA advance to the final, where they would win silver.