Poolside with Chris Brill

  • By John Terry
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  • January 10, 2014 04:04 PM
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This is the 16th of a season-long series that will feature updates on WVU swimming and diving alumni, as well as getting to know members of the current team.
Chris Brill has been swimming forever. 
Chris Brill
Admittedly, he didn't really like any other sports growing up in South Africa, so it was a natural fit. He was too ‘fragile’ for rugby, soccer didn't grab his excitement and he didn't have the coordination for cricket. 
Swimming, though, intrigued him. He was good in the water from a young age. And even though the now-junior on the WVU men's swimming team had already fallen in love with swimming, it wasn't until he arrived in Morgantown that he really discovered the excitement of the sport. 
Brill arrived to West Virginia University in January of 2012, midway through the 2011-12 swimming season, but he had to wait just weeks for the annual meet against Pitt.
“I remember the atmosphere was so great,” Brill said. “I got my first full taste of how easily the tables can switch and how exciting it can be. I never knew swimming could be so exciting. I’ve never enjoyed swimming so much.”
Not only was it a fierce rivalry, but it was the first dual meet he had ever swum in before. Back in South Africa, he participated in large age group meets that took place over a weekend, but nothing compared to swimming three races in an hour.
But it’s been that kind of transition to America for Brill, one that he’s enjoyed, one that he would never do over.
The Johannesburg, South Africa resident has wanted to swim in America since he was 15 when he saw swimmers he looked up to swim collegiately here.
“The facilities and opportunities are really good. To be able to study and swim at the same time was a no brainer for me,” Brill said. “It was a tough journey, but I decided that South Africa was a place that didn’t fit with what I needed to be doing.”
Brill reached out to the West Virginia coaches and was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship offer. When he arrived in January, it was his first time to the country. He was welcomed by the cold West Virginia winter.
“It was miserably cold – just awful,” he said.
While there was an adjustment period with learning university life and how to be independent and make decisions without his parents, the team environment is what made the transition so easy for Brill.
“I didn’t know anybody when I came here, but I had been told by the coaches that the team environment was great. Some of the guys had talked to me on Facebook, so it made it a lot easier,” Brill said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere without the guys on this team. We have cohesiveness that I’ve never seen before.”
Brill said that because of the move and transitioning into a new environment, he never really felt comfortable for his first season. But despite that, he was named the team’s most improved swimmer.
“The first season was really tough,” he said.
Then, a season ago, he set personal bests and was named All-Big 12 First Team.
“Once I got comfortable, I was able to put in the work to put a good season in front of me,” Brill said. “I just needed a bit of time to get everything straight in my head, so that I could just let it all flow and work. It’s been a huge leap for me in terms of the past year.”
Much of Brill’s focus this season lies upon the success of his relay team, which is vying for an NCAA cut.
“I would live to give my best on that relay and make it to the NCAAs,” he said. “It’s about improving all the time and helping my teammates get better. When they’re getting better, I’m getting better.”
On Saturday, though, Brill can put all of the times in the rearview mirror. He will get to relive the excitement of his first American experience – the Backyard Brawl meet against Pitt.