Thomas Heilman Smashes Records

The Sophomore Star


Credit: Jon Reiter

Thomas Heilman is a 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships gold medalist in the 100-meter butterfly, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, and 4×100-meter medley relay.

Noah C, Staff Writer

When thinking about the greatest swimmers in the world, Western sophomore Thomas Heilman might not come to mind. However, the 15-year-old Western Albemarle student could soon be a household name alongside Olympians like Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky. When Heilman completed the 100M butterfly in less than 52 seconds two years in his career before Michael Phelps was able to do the same, his name burst onto the national scene.

Heilman first began his swimming career to join his two siblings. Now he has set over ten national age group records, including beating a former record set by swimming legend Michael Phelps. Records aside, Heilman is most proud of his membership on the national USA junior swim team. “Being on the national junior team for USA, that’s definitely an honor that not a lot of people can say they’ve accomplished,” Heilman said, “being part of that team is a great experience and I’m grateful for that.”

While Heilman has many fans, he said his biggest supporters are his family. “Everyone is always supportive, my entire family is very close, so they are always there for me when something goes wrong, and also to celebrate.” 

Heilman leaves swimmers with a valuable piece of advice. “Have fun, when it starts to become a grind and you’re forcing yourself to go to practice or wake up in the morning, that’s when it starts to become more of a job than a sport. So, it helps to surround yourself with friends that you like to be around.”

Heilman has demonstrated an extreme level of skill at this age, but it is not without hard work. “It starts off with the talent, but as you get older you start to go against people who have that same talent, so it becomes about the hard work and the time you put in with your coaches and teammates that makes the difference.” 

Heilman’s coach, Daniel Bledsoe, knows Heilman has what it takes to go pro. “Thomas was always the best athlete in the room, one of the most competitive swimmers I’ve ever met… He’s the most elite athlete I’ve ever coached.” Heilman plans to swim in college and is looking into a future as a professional swimmer.