MAGAZINE: London Calling

From The Bark magazine, Fall 2011 Evan Pinion had a pretty good summer. He shattered two meet records at the Junior World Championships, swimming the 800-meter and the 1500-meter freestyle. “(Representing the USA) is amazing,” Pinion says. “Not a lot of people get to do it, so it’s a great honor to.” The chance to represent his country was also a big building block for the young swimmer’s confidence. “Anytime you can get international experience, that is big,” Pinion’s coach Jim Rumbaugh says. “Mentally being on that stage is much more important than the physical part.” Pinion is 19th in the world in the 800-meter, which is, unfortunately for Pinion, not in the Olympics. If Pinion is to reach his goal of making the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, it will be in the in the 1500-meter. It may prove too tall of an order for the 16-year-old to make the Olympics at his second best event. “Outside, an outside chance,” Rumbaugh says. “He is a great kid and he’s going to make the Olympics.” Probably not this time around, though. “They only take two swimmers,” Rumbaugh says. “Right now, he is only sixth or seventh.” London is, however, the goal. “Mentally, we just have to keep giving him goals to shoot for,” Rumbaugh says. “It gets harder and harder the better you get.” Pinion isn’t in the habit of falling short of his goals. He doesn’t plan on missing this one. “If I keep training well enough this year,” Pinion says, “I hope to have a chance.” While the goal may be tough, so is Pinion’s training. He plans on doing all he can to be swimming for his country in 2012. “He’s extremely coachable,” assistant coach Jimmy Dabney says. “You don’t have to worry about him goofing off, or skipping, or anything. He’s got bigger goals.” Those bigger goals mean that Pinion practices every Monday through Saturday with two-a-days on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The schedule doesn’t exactly leave time for much socializing. “He doesn’t have time to do what other high schoolers do on the weekends because he has larger goals for himself,” Dabney says. All the practice can add up, and shoulder injuries are something that young distance swimmers always have to worry about. “We do a lot of shoulder rehab stuff,” Pinion says. “If I am having trouble, we take it easy that day. If I’m better the next day, we go back at it.” Pinion’s swimming style, though, doesn’t generally take too much of a toll. “He’s got a great kick, so he takes some pressure off of his shoulders,” Rumbaugh says. This world class kick comes from many hours of hard work and some time in the hospital. Pinion has broken one of his feet four times which has deformed his foot into a fin-like position. “I get more power out of my kick now,” Pinion says. The kick has propelled him to be one of America’s best young swimmers, which does come with some pressure. “There is some pressure from school,” Pinion says, “with [principal] Dr. [John] Bartlett just kind of kidding around.” Being at Bearden offers more troubles for Pinion than the occasional tease from his principal. He has to constrain his practice hours to before and after school. “It would definitely make it easier if he was home schooled, but I definitely think public school is better for his overall makeup as a young man,” Rumbaugh says. Pinion has also decided to take the time to swim for Bearden’s swim team, a decision he did not make until after the swim team’s first meet. “I just missed it,” Pinion says. “It’s a lot of fun.” Pinion has held a national record for his age group since age 14 and has a bright future ahead of him. “Where he is at, at his age, is pretty special,” Dabney says. “Obviously the Olympics is amazing, but even after the Olympics, he wants to go to college.” College is an interesting choice for any to-be Olympic athlete. The athletes usually choose a University based on what coaches are there that they think can get them to the Olympics. Pinion thinks the coaches at Tennessee, followed by other southern schools such as Florida, Texas, and Georgia. While the future is always on the horizon, Pinion is not looking much past the US Olympic Trials on June 25, 2012. “If I make it, I don’t know if I’d come back to school,” Pinion says. “I would miss at least one and a half months of school and might home school. “It’d be great though.” Jacob Steimer is sports editor of The Bark . Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.