During his time at Sunset High School, Caspar Corbeau was one of the best high school swimmers in Oregon.
Now, the former Apollo is taking his talents to Tokyo. Corbeau, a dual citizen of the United States and the Netherlands, will swim for the Dutch national team in the 2021 Summer Olympics.
Since 2019, Corbeau has been swimming competitively for the University of Texas at Austin.
The Longhorns are a perennial powerhouse in the pool. With Corbeau among their top swimmers, the Texas men won their 15th national title at the NCAA Championships — the most for a men’s swimming and diving program in the NCAA’s history — in March. Corbeau placed fourth in the 200-meter breaststroke while recording a personal-best time of 1:51.43 at that event in Greensboro, North Carolina.
As a freshman, Corbeau won the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events at the Big 12 Championships.
He’s already had international success, too. At the 2017 European Youth Summer Olympic Festival in Hungary, Corbeau earned gold in the 200-meter breaststroke and silver in the 100-meter breaststroke. He also swam for the Netherlands in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Argentina, reaching the finals, where he placed seventh.
Despite his success, Corbeau is clear-eyed about how tough the world of competitive swimming really is.
He says he doesn’t expect to be in medal contention in Tokyo, even though the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke — the events in which he’ll be competing — are where he’s had his most success. But he thinks he can make the final, he added — just as he did in Argentina — and he’d be happy with that.
“I want to take it step by step,” Corbeau explained. “This is my first Olympics. I’m young. I’m already doing really well — I think I’m 12th in the world right now in my respective race.”
Both of Corbeau’s parents were competitive swimmers in high school and college, too, and Caspar has been swimming competitively himself since he was 8.
“I started to have a little bit more success in swimming the first year of me competing, and I decided to focus on that one sport … because I was having so much success, and my father could also give really good guidance because he’d done it his entire life as well,” Caspar Corbeau said.
Jim Corbeau, his father, tried and “barely missed out” on swimming for the Netherlands at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Like his son, he was a breaststroke specialist, which Caspar Corbeau said was helpful as he developed as a swimmer.
Initially, Caspar Corbeau missed the cut for the Tokyo Olympics as well, he said. He was a fraction of a second behind the Netherlands’ qualifying standards in the 200-meter breaststroke. It was a frustration with which his father could commiserate.
We shared the same kind of grief of being so close but not being able to go,” Caspar Corbeau said.
In the end, though, Caspar Corbeau made the team. The Dutch Olympic Committee decided to take him, he said, recognizing how close he had come to qualifying outright.
Shannon Corbeau, Caspar’s mother, also swam for UCLA in college.
“Our role as parents has been to (try to) provide unconditional love and support, and to do what we can to have all three of our children succeed in whatever endeavors they attempt,” Jim Corbeau told The Times in an email. “As parents who were also very good swimmers in our youth, we’ve needed to be careful that we didn’t/don’t ‘cross the boundary’ from parenting to coaching. It’s not always easy, as you can imagine.”
Fortunately for him, the coaching Caspar Corbeau has received has been exemplary. He was coached at Sunset by Adam Farber. At Texas, he is under the tutelage of decorated head coach Eddie Reese. He also trains in Portland with Nacim Bouferrache at The Dolphins Portland Swimming.
As for Corbeau’s allegiance in international competition, even though he grew up in the Beaverton area, he has Dutch citizenship through his father, whose parents immigrated from the Netherlands to Santa Cruz, California, more than 50 years ago. While he has swam alongside his teammates before, Corbeau said, he is relatively unique in that he lives and trains on the other side of the Atlantic.
I’m one of the only (athletes) that trains outside of the country and lives outside of the country normally,” Corbeau said.
Corbeau leaves for Japan on July 10. As proud and excited as they are, his family isn’t going with him. The Olympics are limiting spectators this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has already bumped the Games from their originally scheduled time in 2020 to this summer.
“That sucks probably more for them than for me,” Corbeau admitted, “because I’m sure they really want to see me swim and keep up with how I do.”
But Corbeau thinks his arrow is pointing in the right direction, and he knows this won’t be his only opportunity to compete on the world’s biggest stage. The next Summer Olympic Games are scheduled for 2024 in Paris, the year after Corbeau is set to graduate from the University of Texas.
“I think based on the route that I’m heading, I’ll still be planning to swim, assuming I can make a little bit of money off it … (and) strive to make the Olympics again,” Corbeau said.