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Breeja Larson is a swimmer competing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for the USA.

Breeja Larson qualified for her first Olympics by finishing first in the 100m breast at U.S. Trials in Omaha, the first major non-collegiate competition she had entered. The victory was significant because Larson's result bumped Jessica Hardy out of the mix — Hardy had been the second-best 100m breaststroker in the U.S. behind Rebecca Soni, who finished second behind Larson. Larson was also sixth in the 200m breast. As a collegiate swimmer at Texas A&M, Larson holds the national age group record for 17-18 year olds, in the 100 and 200 yard breaststroke events, set at the 2011 NCAA Women's Championships. Shew won the 100 yard breast at the 2012 NCAA Championships and was third in the 200 yard breast.

After winning the 100m breast at Trials, Larson revealed in her post-race press conference that she had a cancer scare last summer that, in hindsight, actually improved her mental approach to swimming. In her words: "I was at a friends' birthday party, and I'm close with the mom, and she noticed that while I was chewing and swallowed my food that I had a couple of lumps in my throat, (and they're still there), and she made a big deal about it, but I was kind of like, 'whatever.' The next day I made a joke to my coach because I didn't want to go to practice that day. I was like, 'Coach, I can't swim. I'm dying.' And he said, 'Breeja, what are you talking about?' And I said, 'Well, I have lumps in my throat,' and they took me to the emergency room, and they said it was a good chance it was cancer, and that rocked my world. The next couple of weeks, it got really hard to get out of bed. Why go and work hard when I might not be able to swim, and luckily I knew that thyroid cancer has a high recovery rate, so that was good. But it was scary to think I could have to have surgery on my throat. I need that to swim. We have a lot of really good professionals in our masters program at Mesa Aquatics Club in Arizona, and one of them was friends with the doctor who saw me, and he took biopsies, and after many, many long hours of waiting he called me and he left me a voice mail saying they were all benign and we'll just check in yearly to see how they develop and whatnot. They're not affecting my thyroid so they're just little friends that will stay with me for a while." In all, it was about a month from the time the lumps were discovered — July 4th — until she found out that it was not cancer.

Larson grew up in Mesa, Arizona, and lived there through her freshman year of high school. Then she lived in Idaho for two years when her family moved to Boise. At this same time, she was unsure what sports she wanted to pursue, but she knew she'd want to play at least one sport seriously. She and her six sisters were told by their parents at a young age that they'd be on their own paying for college, so "you've got to find a way" in her words. "I loved the other sports, volleyball, track, softball and all that but I figured swimming was my best bet, maybe I could get a college D-II scholarship, that would help with money. Centennial High School in Boise, the coach was great, but swimming wasn't a sanctioned sport, and I swam four hours a week. I realized if I moved back to Arizona and got on a club team I could swim four hours per day and that would help my chances a little more." So while the rest of her family stayed in Idaho, Larson moved in with her Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Tom Fitzgerald in Arizona. "They were wonderful. They kept the food stocked that I needed and they let me use their car to get to practice every morning. I could not have made it through that year without their help."

Larson just completed her second season swimming at Texas A&M. And though she has posted strong results — 2012 NCAA champion in the 100-yard breast, and second in both the 100 and 200-yard breast in 2011 — it hasn't always been easy or enjoyable. "Coming into Texas A&M as a freshman was intimidating," she said. "I was terrified for my first practice, and I was really bad, and I'm still pretty bad at practice. I never trained at that level before. I started year-round club my senior year of high school (three years ago) and Steve Bultman (Texas A&M coach) gave me the biggest opportunity I could have asked for. He took a big risk recruiting me. I was the slowest kicker, and I probably moved backwards a little bit. All of the drills and everything, I was the last one to the wall and everyone had to be patient waiting for Breeja to come in so we could finish. After 2011 NCAAs, I decided I would give it another year, because it's so hard. It's so hard to do college swimming." Prior to her strong result at NCAAs, she was contemplating not pursuing the sport.

Larson was somewhat in awe of the other swimmers in Omaha. "I see the other swimmers walking by and I want to introduce myself and say hi, but I don't want to be a fan. My coach always tells me, 'You got to this meet just like everyone else, don't be a fan, be a swimmer.'"


How tall is Breeja Larson? How old is Breeja Larson? Find out here.

Age: 24 years old
Birthday: April 16, 1992
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 161 lbs.
Birthplace: Mesa, AZ

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