By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, November 16, 2018
It wasn’t long ago that Abrahm DeVine considered himself to be just another swimmer.
He’s always loved the sport – that hasn’t changed. But he was more or less just another above-average swimmer on the verge of something big.
That was just a couple of years ago.
But he’s big-time now, especially after making last summer’s (2017) World Championship team and competing this summer at Pan Pacific Championships.
Add next summer’s World Championship team – where he’ll be a true competitive factor in the 200 individual medley – and he’s prepared to chase his Olympic dream in 2020.
My, how time flies.
“I definitely like to take things one step at a time, so I feel like where I am now with my swimming is the culmination of years of hard work and training,” said DeVine, a senior at Stanford University. “When I put my mind to something, I move it forward, and that’s what I’ve done with my swimming over the past four years at Stanford.
“I haven’t made many changes to my training. I’ve just kept my head down and persevered. It’s been a great experience.”
For the second year, DeVine earned a spot on the U.S. National team following his second-place showing at Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships and subsequent fifth-place finish at Pan Pacs in Tokyo.
His second-place finish in the 200 IM at 2017 Phillips 66 Nationals – a year after finishing sixth at Olympic Trials – propelled DeVine onto his first World Championship team.
While the experience at Worlds proved a bit overwhelming for him, he said the experience overall proved to be another step on his path to believing he can compete with the world’s best.
When he took to the water at Pan Pacs in Tokyo, DeVine said he believed from start to finish that he could be a difference-maker – something he plans to be moving forward as the 2020 Olympics back in Tokyo grow closer.
“Making that World team was a huge surprise for me, and when I was overseas with the team, I didn’t have a sense of real belonging; I kind of felt like someone on the outside looking in,” DeVine said
“But now that I’m heading for my second World Team and third international team next summer, I feel like I have a true role on the team. It’s feeling more comfortable, more routine. That helps me swim better, and it’s showing.”
Swimming with World and Olympic champion Chase Kalisz has also taught DeVine a few things – things he said he’s continued to use in both his college and national and international swims.
He said his decision last fall to come out as gay to his teammates also has improved his mental approach to training and competing.
Their tremendous support and understanding for him has created an atmosphere of acceptance he has received from friends and family for the past couple of years.
“Coming out has been a long process for me, but it was never a fear-based decision; I just felt like I was missing out on living a true life for myself, and because my teammates are among my closest friends and we spend so much time together, it made sense for them to know.
“It’s been a really positive experience. I feel like everyone on the team has my back, and they’ve been very supportive. I think it’s brought us all closer together, and we all understand each other better.”
DeVine’s indoctrination to swimming started when he was 6 when he joined his local club team.
Right away, he showed promise, and he found a competitive adversary – who became his good friend over time – in teammate Hannah.
“We did not like each other at first, and we were fiery rivals the first few years we swam,” he said. “During practice, we’d fight over who got to lead the lane, and that translated into some very heated races.
“But over time, we grew to respect and really like each other. Now she’s a fellow student at Stanford – on the water polo team – and was one of the first people he felt comfortable coming out to when he was ready.
“We bonded over time, mostly waiting at the pool for her brother and my parents to pick us up after practice. She’s a lifelong friend, and someone I can always depend upon.
“But I actually credit her for helping me love the sport as much as I do. Her pushing me in practice made me want to get better, and it worked.”
But DeVine knows it’s always been his innate desire to improve that has led him to where he is today.
And with his collegiate swimming career coming to a close next spring, he said he will focus on making his best effort to be right there at the end to make his first Olympic team in 2020.
Beyond that, he’s unsure what his future holds.
Could be continuing to swim. Could be moving on to pursue his future with his bachelor’s degree in computer science.
As someone who prefers to take things year-by-year, he said he will decide – and know – what to do when the time is right.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics; it’s been a dream since I was a kid, so that would be fantastic,” he said. “But I like to take things as they come. I don’t let whether or not I ever get to swim at the Olympics loom over me.
“I like who I am as a swimmer and as a person, and my life is very full, so I’ll be happy with whatever happens moving forward. But I also know what I want, and I’ve never been afraid to work for it. At the next Olympic Trials, I know I’ll be a different person than (at Trials in) 2016, and I’ll be ready to race for a spot on the team.”