The Minnesota native, Rachel Bootsma, was born on Dec. 15, 1993 to parents Jan and Robert. The Olympic gold medalist started her swimming career with the Aquajets, an age group team located in Eden Prairie, Minn.
High school swimming
As a member of the Eden Prairie High School swim team Bootsma was the Minnesota High School State Champion in the 100 back in 2008 and 2010. Her performance in 2010 was record breaking; her time of 51.5 broke the National Public High School record of 51.8. She was also the 2010 Minnesota High School State Champion in the 100 fly with a time of 52.73 which bested her own Minnesota High School State record of 53.67.
2010 was an especially good year for Bootmsa; prior to the high school season, she represented the U.S. at the Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Cali. where she took home a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke with a time of 28.44. She shared the bronze with Emily Thomas of New Zealand and Fabiola Molina of Brazil.
Bootsma did not defend her 100-yard backstroke title at the 2011 Minnesota High School State Championships as she was competing with the U.S. National Team. Instead of competing at the high school level, the backstroker went abroad, traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico in October of 2011 for the Pan American Games. At those Games Bootsma won gold medals in the 100-meter backstroke and as apart of the 400-meter medley relay. Her time of 1:00.37 was a Pan American Games record. The United States’ winning time of 4:01.00 in the 400 medley relay was also a meet Pan Am Games record.
After such impressive performances during her age group career, it was no surprise that Bootsma was one of the nation’s top college recruits. She chose the University of California, Berkeley. Swimming under the tutelage of coach Teri McKeever, Bootsma became the 2013 NCAA Champion in the 100-yard backstroke during her freshman year as a Cal Bear. Her time of 50.13 was not far off of Natalie Coughlin’s NCAA, American, and US Open record of 49.97. She did a difficult double with the 100-yard butterfly as well, in which she picked up a silver medal.
Bootsma publicly struggled in her sophomore season at Cal, failing to make a top-eight final in her individual events. But she revamped her junior season, this time taking the top spot again in the 100-yard backstroke.
She was just .06 seconds off of Coughlin’s 13-year-old NCAA and American records to win the national title. Just three events prior to her national championship winning swim, Bootsma had the 100-yard fly. Although she missed out on the championship final, she finished 9th in the consolation final with a time that would’ve finished 6th overall. For her third event Bootsma took on the 200-yard fly, an event that she gradually has been swimming more and more — she ended up finishing 19th. She also was a member of the 200 and 400 free relays as well as the 200 and 400 medley relays that all finishing in the top eight.
Bootsma was back in NCAA action for her senior year, looking for her third title in four years. She was able to defend the top spot and took gold again in the 100-yard backstroke in 50.28 almost half a second ahead of the rest of the field. She also collected a bronze in the 800 yard freestyle relay and silver in the 200 yard medley relay. In her other individual swims, Bootsma bettered her previous years result in the 100 yard fly, finishing 7th in the championship final and took 12th in the 100 yard freestyle.
In 2012 Bootsma became an Olympian; at that year’s U.S. Olympic Trials she finished second in the 100 meter backstroke with a time of 59.10. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, Bootsma did not medal individually, but she did earn a gold medal by swimming the backstroke leg of the United States’ 400 medley relay during prelims.
At the 2013 US World Championship Trials, Bootsma continued to prove that she is one of the world’s best backstrokers; she won the 50-meter backstroke in 27.68, a U.S. Open and American record time. That stellar swim earned her a spot on the United States’ World Championship Team. At the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain Bootsma finished seventh in the 50-meter backstroke.
Bootsma made the roster for the 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea along with numerous other Cal teammates.
2015 World Championships
Bootsma qualified for the World Championships in Kazan in what could be her best overall event, the 50-meter backstroke. In a packed race full of talent, Bootsma was at the least expected to vie for a spot in the championship final. Just days before the race, Bootsma backed out of her only event due to sickness.