Making his second Olympic team is a big victory for Tom Shields, 29, who went public last year about a suicide attempt. Since then, he has become outspoken about mental health and the effects of performance pressure on athletes.
Even after he qualified for his second Olympic team at 2021 trials, Shields spoke about the pressure of trials — both the elation and heartbreak. In Rio, Shields finished seventh in the 100 fly and 20th in the 200 fly, then won an Olympic gold medal in the men’s medley relay after swimming the prelims.
A standout Cal Bear from 2010-2013, Shields won multiple individual NCAA titles, including in the 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard backstroke, and 200-yard butterfly, and was heralded as a burgeoning star, even beating Michael Phelps on occasion in the 100 fly. Shields also won two gold medals at the 2019 Pan Am Games (100 fly and medley relay). His time in the 100 fly at 2021 trials was 51.19 — a hundredth of a second faster than his time at 2016 trials, when he finished second to Phelps. In 2021, Shields finished second to world record holder Caeleb Dressel.