At 25, Randall Tom is approaching old age in the swimming pool.
Working more than 40 hours per week as an engineer for Hawaiian Electric Company, the Seabury Hall graduate has found the time to get back into the water and the gym in the last year, and qualify for the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
He is seeded 40th in the 100-meter butterfly - competition in that event begins with preliminaries Saturday in Omaha, Neb. The two Olympic berths are expected to go to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Tom advanced to the semifinals of the 100 fly in 2008, and being back in the trials was a jolt of adrenaline for the former UC Irvine standout, a two-time NCAA finalist.
"It is unbelievable right now," he said Tuesday. "We just watched Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps go at it in the 200 free and I just saw one of my roommates just barely miss qualifying for London, so that was pretty exciting. Seeing people that I used to compete against at this level, that is firing me up."
Tom, who won four high school state titles, was part of the silver-medal 400 medley relay team at the 2008 short-course world championships, but in 2009 he hung up the goggles for nearly two years.
Then, with the support of his girlfriend, Michelle Han, his mother, Trina Tom, and two coaches - Bobby Brewer of Iolani Swim Club and Barry Toyama of Tactical Strength and Conditioning - Tom qualified for the trials with a time of 54.35 seconds.
It is far from the 53.09 personal best he swam soon after college in 2008 - and the 50.65 Phelps carries into the trials as the top seed - but it got him to Omaha.
Brewer, a trials qualifier in 1992, 1996 and 2000, said Tom is ready to make a run.
"The thing about Randall is he is such an explosive athlete," Brewer said in an email. "He's stronger than he's ever been which will translate into some serious speed. We've done a lot of unique, cutting edge training over the last year specifically tailored to his personality and abilities through our support team at Iolani. It has been a lot of fun for both of us."
Brewer said Tom has what it takes to come back to a sport that usually isn't kind to those who step away from it.
"Randall is one of those one-in-a-lifetime athletes for a coach," Brewer said. "You give him feedback and he immediately absorbs it and turns it into a habit."
Tom said that his goal is to better his personal record, and wherever that lands him is fine.
"It has been pretty tough," he said. "Some weeks I work more than 40 (hours) here and there and just trying to find every little bit of time to train has been pretty tiring, not only on my family, but on my body, too."
His mother, Han and Brewer are in Omaha, but one person who was almost always there before is not - his father, Adrian Tom, died in December 2010.
"He always wanted me to do my best, he was a big push for me," Randall Tom said. "That is always in the back of my head, it helps me a lot."
In addition to swimming two workouts a day with Brewer six days a week, Tom also goes to Toyama's gym four hours a week.
"When Randall came to us, he wanted to get back to his prime, which was his college career, and even surpass that," Toyama said. "We do a few things to help him out with that. We stay in constant contact with Bobby and really make sure the program fits Randall's needs."
Tom will be in the same event as Seabury senior-to-be Renny Richmond, the reigning junior national champion in the 100 fly.
"That kid has a lot of potential, if he just fine-tunes some things here and there, there is no limit for him," Tom said. "I think at 17, I was just in swimming more for the social aspect than actually competing and going fast."
Eight years later - seemingly a lifetime - Tom is not necessarily done.
"I don't know if I can say that this is it," he said. "There is always an option to keep going."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org