Inside the Mind of Swimmer-Philosopher Brandon Fischer Ahead of His 5th U.S. Olympic Trials

Brandon Fischer doesn’t fit the mold of the average U.S. Olympic Trials swimmer.

At 35 years old, the breaststroke specialist is headed to his fifth Olympic Trials next month in search of his first Olympic berth. Whereas most would have called their career quits more than a decade ago without financial support, Fischer has continued his while balancing a full-time job as a mechanical technologist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, home of the National Ignition Facility achieving nuclear fusion breakthroughs.

The water began as a playground for Fischer to develop his Olympic dreams as a child. Then it became an area of solace from bullying, “an escape from the world I hated.” As a Division I athlete at the University of Wyoming, the pool turned into a source of frustration from injuries, a place where he fell short of his lofty goals despite qualifying for the 2012 NCAA Championships as a senior.

Now the water is where Fischer is learning lessons about longevity with new methods meant to maximize the training time he can afford to fit into his busy schedule. During a phone interview earlier this month while on a break from his job, he quipped that “most swimmers are probably taking a nap right now.”

What Fischer lacks in natural athleticism, he more than makes up for in mental maturity. He possesses a dedication to discipline akin to the ancient Japanese philosophers whose words he lives by.

“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain,” Fischer said, referencing the famous quote from 17th-century swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. “And I think we’ve lost sight of that because we get fixated on that this is the only way to get there.”

Fischer’s road to his fifth Olympic Trials this summer has certainly been unorthodox.

After barely missing the 200 breast final at the 2016 Olympic Trials, he took two years away from the sport. Then the Livermore native engineered an incredible comeback in 2019, going sub-1:00 in the 100 breast for the first time in his career at age 30. He attributes his National Team breakthrough in part to his lack of expectations for that race.

“The root of all evil can be expectations,” Fischer said. “So it’s great to have those goals, but you can’t be thinking about those when you’re behind the block. And I knew I was going to go fast but I didn’t know how fast. So I really dove into my breath and the why and I just felt this kind of in-the-zone moment.”

At the last Olympic Trials in 2021, Fischer made semifinals of the 100 breast and 200 breast. He had spent the past few years focused on putting his body in stressful situations to extend his athletic prime. At the same time, he’s extra careful about what he puts into his body, making his own food and trying to grow most of it himself.

“I’m trying to improve my pliability because I don’t have any natural pliability, but I think Tom Brady has proven that you improve that by using variable resistance bands,” said Fischer, who now trains with Tri Valley Aquatics. “I’ve used gymnastics rings, which have been an incredible eye opener. When you do so much swimming, you can get comfortable, and you have to put yourself in uncomfortable and stimulating environments to promote that growth because we stop growing at a certain point.

“It takes more work to keep that growth going,” he added. “And that’s where a lot of people started to kind of fold when it’s not coming as easy anymore. So I put myself in extremely stressful, physically, emotionally and spiritually difficult situations, in my garage and then also in the water.”

Fischer would love to get back on the U.S. National Team with a top-6 finish at Trials (he placed 8th in the 200 breast behind a pair of international swimmers at the 2019 National Championships), but he’s trying to keep his head clear of expectations ahead of next month’s trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“My goal for me is to enjoy it — to do the best I can and push myself beyond the limitations of what I think I can do,” Fischer said. “I’ve never just wanted to be at the Olympic Trials. I’ve wanted to make it, but that’s an expectation.”

Before parting ways, Fischer shared another Musashi quote that guides him on his journey: “A man cannot understand the art he is studying if he only looks for the end result without taking the time to delve deeply into the reasoning of the study.”

For years, Fischer was obsessed with going to the Olympics as the end result. Now he’s more concerned with the “why.”

“Am I doing it for somebody else? Because that’s wrong. Am I doing it for acceptance? No. Am I doing it for fitness? That’s great, but I think that’s short term, because once you fall out of swimming you can go back in your old habits. So what is your why? What kind of person do you want to become? What kind of person do you want to be remembered for?

“What’s your legacy? Because when we’re long gone, what kind of impact will we make? I can care less how many gold medals I have. My honor and my integrity and character has more weight than gold, than any value on this earth.”

If Fischer is contemplating retirement, he offered zero hints that day is coming anytime soon.

“I get disturbed when people tell me that I need to move on,” Fischer said. “You’re getting older, you can’t do the things you used to do… I’m going to do whatever I want to do with my swimming career. And if I keep doing this beyond this, that’s my decision.”

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BGray
30 days ago

Has he learned the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique yet?

Garbage Yardage
30 days ago

Get it done Brandon

jp input is too short
30 days ago

Dude’s signed up for Masters Nats overlapping Trials too. Which is kinda funny as the best pedigree in his age group is Eugene Godsoe and Bobby Savulich. I’ll just try to stay within a 25!

CELL
30 days ago

My goat Brandon 🥰🥰🥰

30 days ago

Wish him well and best of luck!

Johnson Swim school
Reply to  [email protected]
30 days ago

Go get em.
Use your walls

Queens
Reply to  [email protected]
30 days ago

I just emailed you.

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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