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Teenage swimming sensation Heilman aims for Paris glory

At just 17, Thomas Heilman is already drawing comparisons to swimming legend Michael Phelps. However, the rising star is focused on the present as he prepares for his debut Olympics in Paris next month.

“It’s always great to be in the same conversation as [Phelps],” Heilman said after winning the 200m butterfly at the US Olympic trials in Indianapolis. “But I’m trying not to worry about that too much and trying to take things day by day.”

Heilman’s victory in 1 minute 54.50 seconds makes him the youngest US male swimmer to qualify for the Olympics since 2000, when Phelps (15) and Aaron Peirsol (17) competed in Sydney.

He’s part of a wave of young talent emerging on the American men’s swimming team’s horizon. At the trials, 18-year-old Luke Whitlock secured a likely spot in Paris alongside Tokyo gold medalist Bobby Finke in the 800m freestyle with a personal best time of 7:45.19.

Heilman, who has been shattering national age group records since the age of 10, is already experienced in international competition. He has competed in the junior Pan Pacific Championships and contributed to the US medley relay gold at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka.

Despite the comparisons to the 23-time Olympic medallist, Heilman finds grounding in his support system.

“Obviously it starts with my family,” Heilman explained. “And then my teammates and coaches do a great job of not trying to make me up to be anything special like that for the most part. Then all my friends just make me feel normal around them. They don’t treat me like I’m any different from them. I think everyone combined just helps me stay a 17-year-old kid and just doing day-to-day stuff like a normal teenager.”

(Source: AFP)

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