Swimming for Late Brother, Louisville’s Tommy Bried has Unforgettable Trials

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Swimming for Late Brother, Louisville’s Tommy Bried has Unforgettable Trials

Four times Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, Tommy Bried got a chance to step up to the blocks.

Each time, the well-coiffed Louisville senior needed look no further than high on his hip for his reason why.

Bried assembled a wild program on the fourth day of Trials. After finishing fifth in the men’s 400 individual medley to open the meet, Bried faced an unprecedented double. He swam the first heat of the men’s 200 butterfly, the opening heat of the lengthiest prelims session of the week. He’d wait until just after 2 p.m. to get back in the water for the 200 breaststroke.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Improbably, Bried made it back to semifinals in both – from the first heat to 12th place overall in prelims in the 200 fly; from heat 4 of 10 to 15th place in the 200 breast.

Racing is the fun part for Bried. But he carries another reason for pushing himself: For the memory of his late brother, Jimmy Bried. 

“I’ve always loved doing a lot of races,” Tommy said. “That’s big for me. The 2-breast has always been special for me. My older brother passed away, and he was 200 breaststroker. So that’s always good for me to get back up and swim that for him.”

Jimmy Bried was 17 years old in 2018 when he died from suicide. Natives of Powder Springs, Ga., the Bried brothers swam together at ACE Aquatics and Hillgrove High School. Two and a half years younger, Tommy looked up to his brother. They swam together most of their upbringing, save for an interlude when Jimmy was out of the water with a heart condition.

Tommy’s appreciation for their time together is sharpened by hindsight of what he now misses to deeply. He carries Jimmy’s memory with him at all times: A tattoo on his left hip of Clifford the Big Red Dog, with Tommy’s signature underneath.

“That’s always with me,” he said. “… I thought about him, racing next to guys that he got to race next to all his life, and now I get to race against them in some way.”

Tommy Bried has had his struggles on this swimming journey. Shoulder surgery all but wrote off his freshman year at Louisville, and it’s been a multi-year rebuild back to the speed that qualified him for U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021. At NCAAs as a sophomore, he finished 31st in the 400 IM and 34th in the 200 fly, then 19th and 28th, respectively, in those events.

In long course, his best time in the 200 fly had remained stuck at 1:59.69 from Phillips 66 Nationals in the summer of 2022. His 1:57.59 Tuesday demolished that. Ditto the 200 breast, in which he went 2:16.10 during the summer of 2023 to a quantum leap of 2:11.96.

He likewise set a best time in the 200 IM two days later, though he finished 41st in 2:02.32. His best 400 IM of 4:15.01 at Trials constituted a cut of 3.98 seconds from his seed time.

He’s got a strong support system at Louisville. He and Zach Harting, the Louisville pro, train together in fly. They had a bet as to who would finish better in the 200, which Harting won on the way to the A final, though the Tokyo Olympian fell just shy of a second Olympics. In the 200 breast, Kyrgyzstani Olympian Denis Petrashov pushes him Bried, both chasing the school meters record that Petrashov holds.

“Zach and I have been training for three years together,” Bried said. “I knew what he’s done, what I need to do. And we’ve been looking to come back for as many second swims as possible.”

The relationship between Harting and Bried was summed up nicely by Harting ending his answer with, “Don’t tell him I’m proud of him; it’ll go to his head.” The Louisville flyers with wild blonde locks have what sounds like a brotherhood, the colorful Harting lovingly calling him a “goober.”

“To put it bluntly, I’ve yelled at Tommy a lot,” Harting said. “He’s a goober. But he’s somebody that works hard. And I think to be successful at this level, you have to just keep seeing yourself in bigger stages. And I think that’s something that he does. …

“Let alone to do two prelims 200s, and then come back at night and do two more in less span of time than he had in the morning. Four two hundreds in a day – I threw up after my finals one and I only had to do one, and he had to do four for the day. There’s not very many people that can execute at that level like he did.”

There aren’t many people who swim with something in the past like what Tommy Bried has. But on a day like Tuesday that goes down as a career highlight, calling to mind Jimmy only sweetens the achievement.

“I get to swim,” he said, “and honor him in that way.”

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1 day ago

Tommy is a great dude. My son met him a few years back. To watch him pull his double at Trials was awesome.

Alice Wright Belknap
Alice Wright Belknap
1 day ago

SO proud of you Tommy and so is my Dad. Awesome All the Way ..
Inspiration from above.

Drew Collins
Drew Collins
16 hours ago

As Tommy’s teammate and friend I look up to him a lot. He is a key part of our team and I am grateful for the opportunity to train and race with him every day. Proud of you Tommy❤️💪🏼

14 hours ago

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8 hours ago

I swam with Jimmy for eight-ish years and was coached under his dad for five of those years. This family made me the person I am today. I vividly remember sleeping over at their house at like 12 years old and making egg and cheese sandwiches the next morning at 4:45 while his dad wrote our workout. So freakin proud of Tommy and how far he’s come <3

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