2016 Olympian Jacob Pebley Announces He Will Not Be at 2021 Olympic Trials

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2016 Olympian and 2017 Worlds bronze medalist Jacob Pebley announced he will not be at the Olympic Trials next week on social media on Thursday. Pebley had actually made his decision in December to step away from the sport but came forward on Thursday stating he was not going to be competing at Olympic Trials, citing the external pressures and anxieties to perform as the reason for him stepping away. He has not definitively stated he is retiring from swimming.

Pebley wrote a seven-slide Instagram post, detailing the pressures he put on himself to make the podium at the Olympics, something he was unable to do in Rio, and how he was becoming someone he was no longer proud of.

Jacob Pebley swam for the Corvallis Aquatic Team in Oregon where he was a junior national champion and a member of the national junior team. Pebley swam four years at Cal Berkeley where he won a national team title in 2014 and was an NCAA runner-up in the 200 back as a senior in 2016. After college, he made the 2016 Olympic team where he finished fifth in Rio in the 200 back.

After Rio, he made it a mission to avenge that disappointment in Rio and he ended up making the podium the next summer at the 2017 Worlds in the 200 back, winning a bronze behind Cal teammate Ryan Murphy. But when asked about his experience at the Games, Pebley couldn’t shake off not making the podium.

“As the days, weeks, months, years following the Games passed, my inner dialogue took its toll on me in the harshest of ways. It went from a fire of redemption into a desperation to achieve this goal. It went from something I dreamed about, to something I needed in order to be happy,” Jacob Pebley wrote.

In 2018, Pebley made the Pan Pacs and Worlds team, where he finished sixth in the 200 back in Gwangju. He had made the move down south to train with Hall of Fame coach David Marsh in San Diego in hopes of making his second Olympics in 2020. But with the pandemic pushing the Games back to 2021, he felt “an enormous amount of doubt and fear sink in as those months went on and on without any normalcy to distract me.”

Pebley stepped away from the sport in December 2020, but returned in April with the intention of “swimming for himself” and to “enjoy it again.”

“I’m on a new journey that is only up to me to decide how it goes. And I hope that everyone competing at Trials and the Games will feel the same way. I’m not going to lie, it will be difficult for me to watch Trials and the Games, but I look forward to seeing everyone compete and enjoy the experience.”

Pebley is ranked as the fifth fastest American all-time in the 200 back and is seventh all-time in the 100.

Jacob Pebley was a founding member of Swimmers for Change with fellow San Diego based Olympian Lia Neal as the program was designed to start a conversation and, in Pebley’s words, “grow a community.” Neal’s motivation stemmed from helping others not feel so alone in the emotions of June 2020 when protests over the murder of George Floyd echoed around the United States.

Pebley started with the goal of hoping he could reach at least one person with something impactful on their lives, and he cited a number of lessons he learned in the process to inform his allyship.

Jacob Pebley’s career in photos:

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1 comment

  1. avatar
    Andrea brooks

    I am watching a re run of the men’s swimming fro rio in 2016 and Jacob pemberly is a great swimmer. I believe that he will be missed,but mental and physical health are very important.
    I hope to see him in swimming again in the near future.

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