As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month concludes, we requested 5 student-athletes on the University of Chicago swimming & diving groups to share about their experiences in addition to recount memorable moments of their careers. These ladies and men signify the perfect in our swimming & diving applications, excelling each within the pool and within the classroom. Junior Chloe Fong (Brooklyn, N.Y.), senior Jonathan Mendley (Potomac, Md.), senior Elizabeth Shen (San Jose, Calif.), senior Keda Song (East Greenwich, R.I.), and sophomore Jared Zhang (Shanghai, China) graciously answered our questions and supplied insightful feedback as they contemplated their experiences within the pool, each rising up and all through school.

  • Who is an athlete that you’ve seemed as much as? What have you ever realized from them that you’ve introduced into your athletic profession?

Chloe Fong: One athlete I look as much as is Dana Torres. I believe her consistency over such an extended profession and her motivation to return again to the game even on the age of 41 is de facto inspiring. I believe one factor that I’ve realized from her is that you could pursue a couple of curiosity on the similar time!

Elizabeth Shen: When Jeremy Lin emerged on the scene as an Asian-American NBA participant, I used to be floored by his story. His athletic accomplishments are actually admirable given the truth that he has been perpetually underestimated, boxed in by stereotypes, and weighed down by expectations. I’ve positively seemed as much as his potential to remain true to himself and hope to see many extra Asian Americans competing at that caliber sooner or later!

Keda Song: In the 2012 Indianapolis Grand Prix, Nathan Adrian tore his go well with on the block proper earlier than diving in for the 100 freestyle ultimate – and nonetheless gained. My coach instructed me this story after my efficiency within the 200 butterfly ultimate on the 2012 New England Age Group championships, the place my go well with dropped proper after my dive and I used to be a crying mess throughout and after the swim. Nothing ought to shake your confidence in your potential to carry out, and Adrian’s potential to race undeterred by another components continues to be a talent I attempt to emulate at present.

Jonathan Mendley: The athlete I’ve seemed as much as for nearly my total athletic profession is Nathan Adrian. He’s constantly been on the prime of the competitors for dash freestyle occasions, which is what I swim. For so long as I’ve been following swimming, Nathan Adrian was at all times a reputation that got here up quite a bit. He’s additionally combined, similar to I’m. He’s half-Chinese and half-white, and I at all times felt a little bit of a connection to him because of this. There was somebody who seemed like me and was an extremely gifted swimmer.

I used to be additionally impressed by his struggle with testicular most cancers. Only months after being recognized and handled, he was in a position to compete as soon as once more on the highest stage and carry out for Team USA. His perseverance and resilience in these months had been unimaginable to look at and impressed me to push myself tougher as effectively.

Jared Zhang: An athlete that I’ve seemed as much as is Jeremy Lin who has been an incredible position mannequin in an Asian-underrepresented sport. Although his athletic talent has made him a basketball sensation, his work ethic and humility are what actually stand out to me – even within the face of criticism and quite a few racist microaggressions, Jeremy Lin handles himself with grace and composure and lets his actions and achievements converse for himself. These traits of being humble, gracious, and hardworking are ones that I’ve hoped to use in my very own athletic profession and life.

  • How has the rise in prejudice and violence towards Asians over the previous 12 months impacted you or individuals you understand?

CF: I’ve spent plenty of my life in New York City’s Chinatown, and I believe this neighborhood was actually hit exhausting the previous 12 months. There was positively a way that individuals did not actually need to go to an space with such a big Asian inhabitants. The latest enhance in Asian prejudice additionally simply sends a reminder concerning the prejudice that different minority teams have been going through and proceed to face on daily basis of their lives. I believe it is necessary to contemplate the latest enhance in prejudice alongside different narratives of social unrest within the U.S.

ES: Even although I have never skilled express discrimination or witnessed any violent hate crimes towards Asians, the previous 12 months has led me to assume extra deeply about my racial positioning as an Asian-American girl. It’s frequent for Asian Americans to have an underdeveloped racial consciousness, since there aren’t many helps or alternatives to debate the nuance and uniqueness of our experiences. While I’m saddened that it has taken an increase in prejudice for extra consciousness and conversations to happen, I’m deeply grateful to be right here on this second. I really feel like increasingly of my household and associates are beginning to unpack issues just like the mannequin minority fantasy, the perpetual foreigner stereotype, and different sophisticated, intersectional Asian-American challenges. I hope that with consciousness comes change and the chance for extra therapeutic, empathy, and peace.

 KS: Prejudice towards Asians has at all times existed, just like the notion of Asians because the “model minority”. Thankfully, nobody that I do know has been a sufferer of hate crime previously 12 months. However, I’m extra involved concerning the future, and the way rapidly individuals will neglect that these violent transgressions ever occurred within the first place.

JM: As a results of the rising violence, I’ve been slightly extra apprehensive about my mother. We stay in a really Chinese space, so my mother by no means felt misplaced or at risk, however she did really feel scared typically, and felt as if being Asian or Chinese immediately wasn’t a great factor or one thing to be pleased with. When she took an Amtrak to New York earlier this spring, the very first thing her sister stated to her was simply to be actually cautious.

JZ: The latest enhance in anti-Asian hate crimes and violence has been horrifying; many members of the family and Asian associates have felt extra uncomfortable and anxious when going out in public. It’s been nice to see the rising consciousness and assist from many teams and people to talk out and condemn anti-Asian and racist assaults. While it could appear small as there’s plenty of work to be achieved, seeing extra illustration by AAPI athletes on the faculty athletics stage continues to be an necessary step in direction of addressing and dismantling the centuries of gathered stigma and prejudice towards AAPI individuals in America.

  • How has being a minority in a predominantly white sport impacted your expertise?

CF: At least for the groups that I’ve been on, there has at all times been a fairly large Asian inhabitants. While being a minority has not had that nice of a private affect on my swimming expertise, I believe that it has made me extra cognizant of different minorities on this sport and made me extra conscious of the shortage of range on the skilled stage.

ES: I’m studying that being Asian in majority white areas has led to the internalization of inferiority and unbelonging for me. Rather than with the ability to function from a spot of safety and actually believing that I used to be satisfactory, I typically felt that I wasn’t sufficient. I attempted to compensate for my non-whiteness by being over-competitive and evaluating myself with others. While these traits can appear useful in athletics, I believe they held me again from being the perfect teammate I might be and in addition made the game much less pleasing. Near the top of my profession, I used to be in a position to untangle plenty of these issues due to my school schooling and UChicago’s crew surroundings. That allowed me to have far more enjoyable with swimming and competitors!

KS: In my house state, swimming is just not a preferred aggressive sport, so I skilled on small groups with minimal range. Being a minority was typical for me, so I grew to count on barely totally different experiences when evaluating life with my teammates, like in upbringings, habits, and even diets.

JM: When I first began swimming, my membership crew was fairly combined between white children and Asian children. I did not really feel uncomfortable or unusual in any respect since there have been so many different Chinese children on my crew. However, I started to note that yearly, the variety of Chinese children in my coaching group would lower. As I acquired to quicker coaching teams, there have been fewer and fewer Asian children and extra white children. When I went to meets, the highest swimmers had been nearly at all times white. I bear in mind considering that it was so unusual that a lot of the Chinese children on my crew by no means reached these elite coaching teams though there have been so many within the decrease teams. But as a result of I used to be in a really numerous space, there have been at all times at the least another Chinese children round me and I by no means felt alone or remoted.

JZ: I truly started aggressive swimming once I lived in Shanghai, China, and have been lucky sufficient to swim in lots of different nations together with Malaysia, Australia, and Singapore. Through these experiences, I used to be acquainted with swimming as a world sport the place individuals of all totally different backgrounds shared a love for competing and coaching. Even since coming again to swim within the U.S. in center college, the place swimming is extra predominantly white, I’ve continued to see the game change into extra diversified. Especially with rising POC illustration on the highest stage of the game together with Nathan Adrian and Lia Neal within the U.S., I’ve witnessed the rising curiosity within the sport from individuals of all totally different racial backgrounds.

  • When you had been schools and future school swim groups, was range on the crew one thing that you simply took into consideration?

CF: When I used to be schools, I used to be searching for a spot the place I would slot in. Diversity positively performed a big position in the place I believed I’d slot in finest.

ES: Diversity on groups and within the college at massive was positively one thing I seemed for. There was one college I used to be involved in for some time, till my school advisor pulled up a crew image and instructed me to take a look at the crew demographics. The college and crew had been each excessive caliber, however everybody on the crew was white. That advisor inspired me to consider a holistic match for me, which helped me notice that racial range is necessary for me to really feel at house. I actually admire the variety on UChicago’s swim crew, and hope individuals of all backgrounds proceed to return be part of this neighborhood!

KS: When I used to be school swim groups, I anticipated most of them to replicate my expertise all through highschool: comparatively small groups that had been unlikely to have a lot in the best way of range. I used to be shocked and happy to see that the UChicago swim crew – particularly my incoming class – had a excessive focus of Asian Americans.

JM: It wasn’t actually one thing that I believed an excessive amount of about. I used to be positive that wherever I ended up, I might be capable to discover a supportive and welcoming surroundings, nevertheless it was reassuring to see that I would not be the one Asian American on my crew.

JZ: When I used to be going via the recruiting course of, a crew’s range was positively one thing I thought-about and seemed for. In my experiences, I knew {that a} crew that was numerous in backgrounds/experiences has the perfect tradition and usually finest efficiency too as a result of we might always be capable to be taught from and problem each other.

  • What does having the assist of your teammates imply to you? How has it enhanced your school expertise?

CF: I’m actually grateful for the assist of my teammates over these previous three years. UChicago positively challenges college students academically, however I do know that I can at all times flip to the crew for assistance on a pset, recommendation on lessons, or simply to speak to individuals who have had related experiences and know what I’m going via.

ES: I’ve my teammates to thank for exhibiting me that I did not must earn their acceptance. As an enormous group of individuals with totally different backgrounds, pursuits, and personalities, the swim crew has a definite openness and is welcoming in direction of everybody. I believe that witnessing such a environment, in addition to benefiting from and contributing to it, helped cement in me a sense of adequacy that has change into more and more salient in my life.

KS: At the top of highschool, I used to be beginning to really feel burnt out from fixed coaching and being unable to spend time with my “school friends” exterior of sophistication or my “swim friends” exterior of apply. My school teammates are each of those teams – they speak about their upcoming assignments whereas within the pool or complain concerning the newest apply whereas on the best way to lecture. Above all, having passionate, inspiring teammates has helped make swimming enjoyable for me once more and remind me how a lot I like to compete.

JM: Having the assist of teammates has made my time right here a lot extra rewarding. This college could be actually difficult, and it is good to have the ability to have a assist system the place I’ve been in a position to tackle nearly any problem I’ve confronted. It’s good to have teammates obtainable to reply any questions I might need or simply present ethical assist throughout occasions of stress.

JZ: Having the assist of my teammates means every thing to me. While we’re all linked by our shared love and dedication for the game, we’re additionally linked and supportive of one another in different points of being a UChicago student-athlete together with residing, hanging out, and finding out collectively. It actually looks like our crew is a household and this has enhanced my school expertise as a result of I do know there are such a lot of individuals I can rely on once I want assist.

  • What has been your favourite second or athletic spotlight as a member of the UChicago swimming & diving crew?

CF: Definitely UAAs final 12 months. Emory constantly wins our convention, however over the last session on the ultimate evening of the meet final 12 months, the boys’s crew was only some factors behind Emory. The complete crew was on their ft screaming over the last males’s relay, and though they did not find yourself successful, the power and pleasure on the pool deck was such a cool factor to be part of.

ES: Emory has taken the UAA swim & dive title for 22-consecutive years. UChicago has but to interrupt their streak, however my third 12 months, we got here awfully shut, right down to the final relay of the meet. Forty or fifty of us huddled on the finish of the lane, screaming as swimmers lunged into the water. The total pool was thundering. I believe all of us misplaced our voices. We additionally misplaced the race and the meet, however I’ll always remember that second.

KS: Breaking the 200 IM report on the 2019 Phoenix Fall Classic. It’s one of many ways in which I can go away my mark on the swim and dive program, even after I graduate. On one hand, I’d like to see the crew get even quicker and break the report, however however, I additionally need to maintain on to it for longer.

JM: My favourite second needs to be all of UAAs my third 12 months. Our crew swam so effectively and exceeded everybody’s expectations. I bear in mind feeling so pleased with everybody and what we had completed. So many people acquired season bests and private bests. We had been so near beating Emory, and the entire crew being loud and excited earlier than the 400 freestyle relay on the finish of the meet was unimaginable. I had by no means felt so good to be part of a crew. I believe throughout that complete meet there was one thing pushing us all to do higher and it was superb to be part of that.

JZ: My favourite athletic reminiscence as a member of UChicago swim & dive needs to be witnessing the ultimate males’s relay on the 2020 UAA meet. This single race would decide whether or not UChicago or Emory’s males’s crew would win all the meet. The power on deck because the race was starting was electrical – dozens of my teammates and I had been huddled collectively on the finish of our relay’s lane and yelling our hearts out. Although the results of the race wasn’t what we had hoped for, it was superior to really feel the fervour and spirit that every one of my fellow teammates had for our crew.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here