Emily Brunemann: Big Events Ahead
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
The next six months or so are going to be big for Emily Brunemann.
Not only will she compete at the Open Water National Championships in June, but following that (and based on her results), she hopes to compete in the open water competition at the Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships in Australia in August.
And then there’s the wedding a month later…yes, her wedding. Brunemann is marrying fellow swimmer Michael Klueh in her hometown of Covington, Ken., in September.
The two met at 2008 Olympic Trials in Omaha and kept in touch despite Klueh living and training in Texas and Brunemann doing the same in Michigan. It didn’t take long for them to realize how much they had in common – and the rest, is history.
Lots to do and lots to accomplish this year for one of the best 10K open water swimmers in the world.
“Our wedding is early September, and I had to look at all different calendars to make sure it did not conflict with swimming, ASCA, recruiting, etc.,” Brunemann said. “I did not think there would be that much to look at when planning a date.
“So 2014 is hopefully another exciting year as my main goal is to make the Pan Pacific Championship Team in the 10K. Our nationals are in June, so I am just gearing up for those right now.”
Needless to say, when she’s not training or competing this year, Brunemann will be busy planning the wedding, especially with such a small window between potential Pan Pacs and her nuptials.
She enjoyed a stellar 2013, when she won the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup series. Her performance and victory of the FINA World Cup series was nominated for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year. Brunemann became the first American to win the overall title on the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup professional circuit, male or female.
Having just returned from a competition in Australia a week ago – where she finished fifth and joined two other American women in the top 5 – she knows repeating and improving on last year will take a committed, focused effort on her part.
And she’s ready for it, as are her U.S. open water teammates.
“The United States is consistently showing our strength,” Brunemann said. “Last year was an incredible journey, where we wanted to focus on getting as much race practice as possible.
“A lot of the time, open water comes down to the smartest swimmer. I had two goals for last year and stuck to those goals. The years before had been a little difficult so my goals were to get on the National Team and to win the World Cup Circuit, and I fortunately achieved both. I think one of the major things that changed was that I stopped just focusing on swimming. I do better with distractions in my life.”
In addition to the distraction of her engagement and wedding, Brunemann said she started working part-time with the University of Michigan women’s swim team last year, and stopped going home after morning practice to eat and sleep before returning in the afternoon for a workout.
She also started traveling with the team and working in between practices. It gave her a new perspective and appreciation for swimming post-college.
“It added something to my routine that I was desperately missing,” Brunemann said. “I became a more balanced person, and I think that balance is crucial.”
Considering her background in distance freestyle swimming – she won the NCAA title in the 1,650 freestyle while at Michigan – Brunemann said the transition to open water was a natural one for her.
And even though she continues to compete in the pool, for Brunemann, the longer the event, the better. It’s all pure racing now.
“The mile was my favorite event; however, since they do not have a mile in the Olympics for women, I decided to go just a little bit longer,” Brunemann said with a laugh. “I think the other great thing about open water is that it is not always about the faster swimmer but a lot of the time it comes down to the smartest and even luckiest swimmer. There is so much more chance involved and that has kept me in the sport.”
The challenge and unpredictability of open water competition also have kept Brunemann engaged and intrigued.
Throughout her many experiences, several stand out, none more prominently than when she encountered a sea lion during a race in Argentina in 2011.
“I remember swimming next to a girl from Russia, and I lifted my head because I heard her screaming and I got very scared,” Brunemann said. “I looked over and there was a big black animal jumping next to us. Luckily, it had been there playing around the couple days before the race so once I calmed down, I figured out what it was, but it was a crazy experience.
“Overall, the worse part about open water is that in major races it is very, very physical, with a lot of pushing and shoving and that always just makes the races harder.”
But having started swimming as a youngster at the bequest of her mother – a college swimmer in her own right at Xavier University – for safety purposes, Brunemann said she envisions swimming will remain an integral part of her life forever.
She attributes swimming for making her the person she is today, but also knows that her competitive career must have an end.
She said she’s shooting for a grand finale at the 2016 Olympics, an experience she hopes to share with Klueh as they both finish their illustrious careers on the highest of notes.
“Everyone’s career must come to an end, and while I do still love the journey I am on because I have not fulfilled all of my goals, 2016 will be my last run,” Brunemann said. “I have applied to the University of Michigan School of Social Work to get my masters, which I will hopefully be starting in this fall. From there, I would love to work with student athletes on a college level, but we will see where life takes me next.
“I feel like if you don't have a plan for life after swimming the transition can be very difficult, so I am excited that I have things lined up to look forward to – school, marriage, a family, etc.”