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After A Mental Reset, Shaine Casas Is Back And Ready For Swimming Worlds

By Alex Abrams | May 05, 2022, 4:03 p.m. (ET)

Shaine Casas competes in the men's 200-meter backstroke final at the Phillips 66 International Team Trials on April 27, 2022 in Greensboro, N.C.


Shaine Casas needed to do some soul searching after he failed to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

He asked himself, “What’s going to happen next?”

Casas decided to take a two-month break from swimming to try to sort things out. He avoided watching the Tokyo Olympics on TV, and he took some time to think about why he even wanted to be an Olympian.

“That was crazy to fail like that,” Casas said. “I think that was kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Like everything came down. I missed the team, (and) all this happened.”

Casas, 22, has gained some perspective in the year since he suffered such a personal and professional setback at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

A year ago, Casas arrived at the Olympic trials as a rising star in the 100-meter backstroke. While his spot in Tokyo wasn’t guaranteed, many experts believed he’d earn one of the two spots in the event.

However, then the unthinkable happened in Omaha. Casas, a native of McAllen, Texas, finished an unexpected third in the 100 backstroke behind American record holder Ryan Murphy and Ohio State’s Hunter Armstrong.

Casas has made several big changes in his life since coming up just short of his goal at the Olympic trials last June. 

He moved to Austin, Texas, from College Station, where he won three national championships at Texas A&M University in 2021. He also shocked many in the swimming world by deciding to turn professional after missing out on the Olympics.

Along the way, Casas rediscovered his reasons for wanting to swim. As he put it, he’s back in business and taking his return to the pool one step at a time.

“I stepped away. I was like ‘I’m done for a little bit. I’m done,’” Casas said. “I stepped away for a couple of months, and I just kind of reevaluated, just really thought about why do I do this. Like, swimming is not a sport, if you’re looking for money, it’s not here. If you’re looking for fame, it can be here but not really.

“It’s just because I enjoy the sport and I’m competitive, and I think that’s what I want.”

Casas took another step in his comeback when he overcame a mild illness and some nervousness to put together a promising showing at last week’s Phillips 66 International Team Trials in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Shaine Casas competes in a preliminary heat for the men's 200-meter backstroke at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials on June 17, 2021 in Omaha, Neb.


Casas admitted the first day of the competition on April 26 was “nerve-racking.” However, a day later, he placed second in the men’s 200-meter backstroke race to qualify for this summer’s 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Casas finished in 1 minute, 55.46 seconds, less than half a second behind Murphy, who won in 1:55.01. Casas came away encouraged.

He figured spectators would be curious to see how he did after he decided to turn pro instead of returning to Texas A&M for his senior season.

“The pressure was on. Transitioning from amateur to pro everybody’s like, ‘All right. What is this guy going to do?’ I was happy to punch the ticket (to the world championships),” said Casas, who will make his world championships debut in Hungary.

“The times weren’t crazy at this meet, and I feel like I can’t really get into the moment and get too upset about it because at the end of the day the goal was make the team. So I did it. Obviously, I would’ve liked to have made the team in a couple of other events, but I can’t control things that are not myself.”

A day after his runner-up finish in the 200 backstroke, Casas took third in the men’s 50-meter backstroke race in 24 seconds. His performance was overshadowed by Armstrong, who won in 23.71 seconds to set a new world record. Still, Casas said he was pleased with how he swam.

“Obviously, you can’t do much when the guy next to you is going the world record, so that was awesome. I’m pumped for him, pumped for myself, pumped for the future,” Casas said. “I think this meet was just the start. 

“I think people might have forgotten I just moved to Texas, so it’s not going to be there immediately and even (coach) Eddie Reese might’ve forgotten that a little bit. He has been a little bit nervous, but I’m excited. I think I have a bright future in this sport as long as I want it, and I’m willing to do whatever to get to that point.”

Casas admitted it can be frustrating to see other swimmers record faster times than him, but he’s trying to remain patient. He said he’ll eventually get to “that level.”

“It’s just one step at a time. I embrace that it’s not a four-year college career anymore,” Casas said. “It’s as long as I swim, so I’m just going to take it one step at a time and enjoy my time in swimming.”

Alex Abrams

Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.