David Johnston Taking Olympic Redshirt, Will Return to Texas in 2024-25

by Riley Overend 23

August 06th, 2023 Big 12, College, News, SEC

David Johnston is taking an Olympic redshirt year to train with Mark Schubert‘s elite distance crew at The Swim Team (TST), but the University of Texas standout tells SwimSwam he will return to the Longhorns for the 2024-25 season instead of turning pro after Paris 2024.

Johnston, who just wrapped up his junior campaign in Austin, will have two seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining including his optional COVID year. By the time he rejoins Texas, he’ll have a lot more conference competition with the Longhorns moving from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2024.

Last week, we reported that Johnston was joining the six-time Olympic coach’s TST group in El Toro, California, along with Tokyo Olympian Michael Brinegar and NC State’s Will Gallant. Schubert returned in February from a “leave of absence” coaching in China since last year, and now has three of the five fastest Americans in the 1500 free this year.

Johnston is coming off of a breakout performance in the 400-meter freestyle at U.S. Trials, where he triumphed in a personal-best time of 3:45.75 to punch his ticket to Fukuoka, Japan. At last month’s World Championships, he went on to place 17th in prelims with a 3:48.68. Nonetheless, it was an impressive summer from the 21-year-old considering he recently had COVID-19 and is considered more of a distance specialist anyway. Johnston also placed 5th in the 800 free (personal-best 7:51.70) and 4th in the 1500 free (15:03.85) at U.S. Trials.

At the NCAA Championships in March, Johnston earned a runner-up finish in the 500 free while also finishing 4th in the 1650 free and 8th in the 400 IM for a total of 43 individual points. He placed 6th, 5th, and 7th in those events at last year’s NCAAs. Johnston previously trained with Schubert in California during the offseason prior to his leave in China.

Schubert was the USA Swimming National Team head coach from 2006 until 2010. He was also previously the head coach at USC and the University of Texas. He served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team staff at the 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 Summer Games.

After graduating from Texas with an undergraduate degree earlier this year, Johnston remains undecided on his area of graduate studies.

“Not sure what I’ll study when I return,” Johnston told SwimSwam. “I have a degree in communication & leadership and a business minor. Interested in something to do with broadcasting, but I’m gonna figure that out within the next year.”

A redshirt (or redshirting) is when you skip a year of college swimming while preserving that year of collegiate eligibility. Athletes can take redshirt seasons to prepare for the Olympics or recover from an injury, among other reasons.

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ct swim fan
6 months ago

Has anyone ever done a study or analysis about whether these Olympic Gap Years are worthwhile? For instance,how many men/women that took one actually improved their position enough to get an Olympic berth that they probably would not have gotten had they not taken the gap year.

Lap Counter
6 months ago

Olympic redshirts used to be much more prevalent when Trials were earlier….April or early May.

Reply to  Lap Counter
6 months ago

Simone Manuel redshirted the 2015-2016 NCAA Season in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics.


Fukuoka Gold
6 months ago

Johnston also placed 5th in the 800 free (personal-best 7:51.70) and 4th in the 1500 free (15:03.85).

I assumed this is US trials?

6 months ago

Needs a whole year to prepare and try and hold off Luka

6 months ago

Any explanation what’s an Olympic redshirt actually mean ?? Assuming it’s an American thing

Reply to  Verram
6 months ago

A redshirt (or redshirting) is when you skip a year of college swimming while preserving that year of collegiate eligibility. Everyone can redshirt once. You can take more Olympic redshirts to extend further, though.

In the NCAA everyone gets 4 years of eligibility (normally – lots of people got a 5th year because of COVID complications).

There’s lots of nuance and a complex set of rules but that’s the version that you need to know as an Australian who might be aware of college swimming but not following deeply.

It’s a huge deal in wrestling, where Olympic and college wrestling are different styles – so many top wrestlers take years off to focus in freestyle (for the Olympics).… Read more »

Lap Counter
Reply to  Verram
6 months ago

Another type of redshirt is medical. If you have a surgery or big injury where you miss most of the season then you can take a medical redshirt and the year doesn’t count against your 4 years!
Some athletes take an Olympic and Medical and then their career spans 6 years!

Bob the builder
6 months ago

I’m really confused about the Olympic redshirt and Covid year. I thought that once in school you have 5 years to complete 4 years of sport. By taking the Olympic redshirt wouldn’t the Covid year become nullified as his senior year will be his 5th year of time? Or is there some extra rule

Reply to  Bob the builder
6 months ago

The Covid year is another one on top of the normal year available for redshirting.

Reply to  Bob the builder
6 months ago

The COVID matter extended the timeline as well to 5 in 6. But that’s sort of moot – Olympic redshirts pause the clock.

6 months ago

If Johnston was on Cal, he’d be using his 7th year of eligibility during an Olympic years cause that’s what the baby bears do

Texas fell off since Schooling/Conger/Licon days, but at least they aren’t cheaters

Reply to  Andrew
6 months ago

Stay salty about Cal in every post. You’ll never be good enough to even be admitted to such a prestigious university!

Reply to  Kledmg
6 months ago

Just be glad there’s still a Cal to be salty about – they’re one (more) bad decision away from being a salt-free sports nothingburger

Last edited 6 months ago by Qqq
Reply to  Kledmg
6 months ago

Hugo Gonzalez got in after failing out of Auburn…

Reply to  Orange
6 months ago

Hugo Gonzalez was asked rhe capital of California in a podcast and had no idea what it was. That coupled with some of the latest recruits going in, made me realize Cal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Reply to  Bobthebuilderrocks
6 months ago

Do you have a link for that interview?

Reply to  kekclubber
6 months ago


I believe it’s during the rapid fire questions the hosts do with each guest.

Underachieving swimmer
6 months ago

Interesting decision to make a coaching change now after his LC international breakthrough this summer. Good luck!

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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