Former Granada High star Brandon Fischer came up short in his bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, but his accomplishments in and out of the pool make this ‘veteran’ competitor stand out.
Fischer, 32, came in 15th place in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic trials (WAVE II) in Omaha, Neb. last month, and only the top two advanced.
But Fischer’s story is more about drive and perseverance than any single result. He’s giving Father Time a run for his money as a four-time Olympic trials participant.
“He’s got a lot to be proud of,” said Fischer’s local coach Alex Silver, who heads the Livermore Aquacowboys. “He’s the only guy in his 30s in either of his events to make the top 16. It’s pretty cool.”
Silver also notes that Fischer was the fastest American ever at the age of 30 years or older in his events in 2019 in long course.
Because Fischer works full time at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, swim training had to be built around his real job — no small task. The COVID-19 pandemic also complicated things.
“I knew that I had some unfortunate circumstances due to COVID that hindered my ability to be optimal (in the pool),” Fischer said. “But we all have to make some hard choices during the pandemic that we have to put our health and safety at the expense of our pursuit of our dreams and goals, and sometimes that’s a hard choice to make. Working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, I had to put my health and safety first.”
A mechanical technologist supporting laser programs at the lab, Fischer said his employer has been “very gracious in supporting me and backing me doing this.”
“I enjoy and love the work I do, and I would not be happier anywhere else,” he said. “I love working there. I get to play with expensive Legos.”
Fischer said coaches came up to him during trials asking if he would keep going as a competitor.
“One coach said, ‘We need more people like you that are role models in the sport,’” Fischer said, referencing his ability to work full time and compete with the elite.
Fischer, who’s been on the U.S. national swim team from 2019-2021, was basically on his own at trials, with a backup coach. He also trained virtually alone back home in a monastic environment, including doing weight training in his garage. Even with all the challenges, he performed admirably.
“Being my fourth Olympic Trials, I knew going in what to expect,” Fischer said. “I was no stranger, but being one of the oldest ones there, I was kind of the veteran. That’s what they called me, ‘the veteran.’”
In the wake of the big meet, Fischer is taking time for himself, trying to stay fit, and weighing his options as a competitor.
“It’s still fresh. I write down some goals, and I play around with ideas, and say, ‘Is this a good goal or a good vision for my future and where I want to go?’” he shared. “For swimming competitively, I don’t know if I’ll do it or not. I love it and I want to keep doing it; it’s just other life circumstances and other things that come into the whole mix of life … I’m not a kid anymore. I still consider myself a childlike person inside an adult body. I’m a young person.”
With a goal of becoming a scientist, Fischer plans to apply for graduate school at UC Berkeley and study nuclear mechanical engineering.
As a Granada senior, Fischer finished with gusto in the pool. He won North Coast Section championships in the 100 and 200 individual medley and received an athletic scholarship at the University of Wyoming, attending 2008-2013, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He returned to the Bay Area in 2015, attended Las Positas College and gained his degree in 2018, while holding down part-time coaching jobs at Tri Valley Aquatics, Livermore Aquacowboys and Livermore Area Recreation and Park District.
He rededicated himself to competition and made it big in 2019, earning a spot on the powerful U.S. national team at the age of 30.
“It was a big deal,” he said of the late-breaking career accomplishment. “Actually, my times that I had when I was age 30, someone told me, ‘If you had done them three weeks prior you would have had a ticket to the World Championships in 2019.’ I was like, ‘That would have been nice.’”
On a deeper level during these COVID-19 times, Fischer believes it’s important that people “don’t let fear” creep into their lives, in all aspects.
“This thing is dangerous, and (the virus) does not care how you feel,” he said. “We just have to adapt; we have to evolve. We have to be smart. I have to do it. At the laboratory, we’ve been treating it as a national security threat.”
Asked what he’s most proud of in his swimming career, Fischer said, “Not quitting. Mental toughness. When everything goes south on you what are you gonna do?
“There have been moments where I wanted to quit. There have been moments where I wanted to give up … where I don’t want to live the life of Brandon Fischer, but over the time of my swimming career and my life in general, I didn’t quit. I may not have gotten what I wanted, but I didn’t quit.”
He carved his own path in the pool, pushing himself to new heights, often with spectacular and surprising results.
“It’s not been a very linear path like most of these higher level athletes where this is their full-time job and they’ve been able to make it happen and do very well,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all have to be contributing citizens of the world in some manner."