4 Traits That Helped Tom Shields Land on the Olympic Team

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott


Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS

By Cassidy Lavigne, Swimming World College Intern

Tom Shields, 25, has finally qualified for his first Olympic Games in the 100 and 200 meter butterfly. Shields is known for his incredible underwaters, which have led him to much success in the short course pool, but there’s a lot more to know about the talented swimmer.

Born in Panama City, Florida and raised in Huntington Beach, California, he has already left his mark in the swimming world. One of Shields’ previous coaches, Associate Head Coach of Irvine Novaquatics Jeri Marshburn, shared some of her experiences in coaching him before he took off to swim for the University of California-Berkeley and become the Olympian he is today.

1. Tom has always loved relays.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Seriously, he’s nutty about relays,” Marshburn stated. When Shields swam when he was younger, his favorite relay was the 4×200 free relay. “The relay that everyone else prefers not to swim, especially since it is usually on the same day as the 200 free,” coach said. Shields was known for pumping up the rest of his teammates for the relay, and finishing the race as an amazing anchor no matter how tired he was.

2. Once a competitor, always a competitor.

tom Shields

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

Marshburn comments on Shields’ constant drive for being competitive at both meets and at practices. “He loved to race in practice. Anything from volunteering to get his team out of a set by swimming a ridiculously fast time (which he always made) to shouting out a challenging set for his group to do and getting them to not only buy into the set, but race it with him.”

3. He has a sense of humor about the sport.


Photo Courtesy: Kara Sekenski

Shields was known for his sense of humor working in practice on his underwaters, and pushing his teammates. Marshburn commented, “He has a good sense of humor. Occasionally when we were doing a set of underwaters, where everyone had to make them or we started over, he would intentionally not make the last one and make the group re-do the set.” We’re not sure if his teammates always saw the humor in that!

4. He laughed at the prospect of swimming the 200 fly.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When Marshburn and Shields had their first serious talk about event cuts for Olympic Trials, fly was not on the 17-year-old’s radar.

“He laughed pretty hard when I said the 200 fly. He was pretty far off the cut at the time and more focused on both the 200 and 400 freestyle events. But sure enough, at sectionals he made his first trials cut in the 200 fly. He went on to make three more cuts in the 100 fly, 200 free and 400 freestyle, so he had four cuts at the 2008 trials.”

A lot has transpired in the past eight years, but these traits have helped Shields land on the US Olympic roster. Best of luck to Shields as he dives into this next chapter of his memorable swimming career at the Rio Olympics Games!

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  1. avatar
    Thomas A. Small


  2. avatar
    Thomas A. Small
  3. avatar
    David S

    Awesome underwater swimming which was apparent at trials as he was able to gain on phelps on each underwater.

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