Brooke Forde Riding Momentum of NCAA Title in 400 IM Into Olympic Trials; Will Take Fifth Year at Stanford

Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Brooke Forde Riding Momentum of NCAA Title in 400 IM Into Olympic Trials; Will Take Fifth Year at Stanford

Brooke Forde is looking forward to simply having a healthy swim at the United States Olympic Trials.

It is a simple goal, but one that was far from reality at the 2016 Trials when the Stanford national champion was recovering from viral meningitis.

It was devastating.

“I think I cried after every race. I passed out in the hallway at the end of the meet,” Forde told Swimming World. “I had meningitis two weeks before Trials. I had been out of the water for a while and was pretty sick. I was also a nervous wreck. I somehow picked it up at a Pro Series meet. A week later I was in the hospital.”

It quickly got worse.

“At first, it just felt like I had the flu, then I got a 107-degree fever. Then it got better, then I started practicing and I couldn’t do backstroke because of the sun being so bright,” she said. “Then I started getting really bad headaches and my neck got stiff. Then I got a fever again and was throwing up a bunch. I went to the ER and they pieced it together. They did a spinal tap so that is why I had to be out of the water.”

Somehow, Forde was able to swim and qualified for the Junior Pan Pacs team.


Brooke Forde. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

“I did qualify for Junior Pan Pacs. That was the positive that came out of it,” she said.

Now, Forde heads to the 2021 Olympic Trials stronger, wiser — and healthier.

She is coming off of a strong senior season at Stanford, winning the NCAA title in the 400 IM.

“That meet still feels weird to think about. It was a bizarre meet after a bizarre season. It for sure helped give me confidence going into long course. I was happy to see that focus pay off,” she said.

Forde will be in contention to make the Olympic team in the 400 IM. It is something she has been focused on for most of her swimming career.

She started IM training at a young age, then chose Stanford to be with the best IM training group in the country.

“I have always been an IMer since I was really young. I attribute that to my club coaches. They made everyone train IM, which I am really grateful for. I wasn’t pigeon holed in one stroke,” she said. “I won Junior Nationals in the 400 IM as a junior. It has really always been my go-to. I like that I can train for it and be prepared to race other strokes, which I enjoy. Obviously the Stanford 400 IM group was the perfect place for me to keep that going.”

Forde is looking for a strong transition from short-course to long-course.

“It felt really rapid, the transition coming off of NCAAs. I went to Mission Viejo two weeks later, so I immediately switched gears into long-course mode,” she said. “I have been becoming more and more confident.”

That confidence gets her through the grueling 400 IM.

“Long-course 400 IM just feels so much different,” she said. “In training, it is just doing some longer stroke work. In short course, I can get away with more sprinty stroke work, but in long course I really have to work on endurance backstroke and endurance breaststroke. I have to focus more on building my 100s as they go. I can’t rely so much on underwater to help me shift gears. I have to work on my tempo in backstroke for sure.”


Brooke Forde. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Forde said keeping the focus on her own race is the key, especially since everyone swims the 400 IM so differently.

She will duel with the likes of Melanie Margalis, Madisyn Cox, Ally McHugh, Hali Flickinger and Emma Weyant for a trip to the Tokyo Olympics.

“I try not to let it affect my mentality. Everyone swims that race so differently, so I can’t try to base my race off of someone else. I am usually not even close to the lead at the halfway point. If I looked at it differently I would take it out too fast,” she said. “You know the goal is your place, so it is really hard to swim your own race when you know that in the middle of the race. But all of the girls I have swam against, I have swam against many times, so I am used to that and that definitely helps.”

Forde has had to shift several aspects of her life around because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which postponed the Olympics.

“It has been pretty challenging for me because I expected to be retired at this point. That took a lot of reshifting my mindset. I am going to miss graduation because I will be at Trials. When it first got postponed, it was finding that motivation to keep going. It is still something I really care about and really want to go for,” she said. “It has been the goal for a long time — longer than I was expecting. I am just trying to be optimistic but also reasonable with myself. I will be happy if I can put together a race that I am proud of. Even if that doesn’t result in making the Olympic team, I want to be proud of my race. It is hard not to think about it with being this close.”

But no matter what happens, Forde will have at least one more year in the pool despite what happens at trials. She has decided to take the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility offered because of the pandemic.

“I am hoping to swim collegiately next year while I do my masters,” Forde said. “So that is nice to know that 2021 won’t be my last race.”

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