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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Swimmers come for the competition

    PHOTO BY CHRIS CODUTO / ARIZONA DAILY WILDCAT

Junior swimmer Jenna Gresdal pushes off the wall at the start of the 200 yard backstroke event during Arizonas swim meet against Washington and Northwestern, Friday January 14, 2004 at Hillenbrand Pool in Tucson, Ariz.
    Chris Coduto
    PHOTO BY CHRIS CODUTO / ARIZONA DAILY WILDCAT Junior swimmer Jenna Gresdal pushes off the wall at the start of the 200 yard backstroke event during Arizona’s swim meet against Washington and Northwestern, Friday January 14, 2004 at Hillenbrand Pool in Tucson, Ariz.

    FOR LOVE OF SCHOOL AND COUNTRY

    Looking through the rosters of the athletes who compete for Arizona, you may find yourself thinking you are reading a roll call for the United Nations with all of the countries that are represented. The Arizona men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are no exception.

    “”The whole university system is different here,”” senior swimmer Jenna Gresdal said. “”It’s far more competitive, and the athletes are at a much higher level.””

    Gresdal hails from Canada and said she takes pride in competing for both Arizona and her home country of Canada, which she represented in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

    “”When I’m competing at home, I am competing to represent my country,”” Gresdal said. “”Here, since the level of competition is so high, it’s still an honor.””

    She said she came to the United States because the university swimming system is much different than it is in Canada. She also said the athletes in America swim at a higher level.

    “”Nobody has the depth like the United States,”” Arizona swimming head coach Frank Busch said.

    The competition the internationally-born swimmers see on a weekly basis in dual meets may not be something they would ever see in their home countries, as it’s on a higher scale, comparable with international competition.

    Busch said that’s why athletes from different countries gravitate to American universities, as well as for the team aspect of the programs.

    “”Most of the kids don’t come from a background where the team is important; it’s more of an individual thing,”” Busch said. “”They don’t grasp the concept at first.””

    Busch said the team aspect of the program helps change foreign athletes’ perspectives and motivate them. He added that athletes from other countries don’t really experience that at home.

    Senior swimmer Lyndon Ferns, a South Africa native, said the facilities in the United States are much better in comparison to his native country and that there is better competition within his own team.

    “”In South Africa, you maybe get competition like that (at the university level) once a year,”” Ferns said.

    He said that in South Africa there is nobody very good to train with and that in America there is competition not only in dual meets but in practice as well.

    Ferns, who won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, said he represents his country wherever he goes.

    “”I still represent South Africa no matter what,”” he said.

    Ferns said he finds it a great honor to represent his country and to represent the Wildcats and their history.

    Despite representing their respective countries in the Olympics, the athletes’ Wildcat pride is not diminished, as both Gresdal and Ferns said that they are representing the university as well. Neither said that they like one better than the other.

    Busch said that he makes sure the team feels like a family, which helps the athletes acclimate themselves to the more team-oriented atmosphere as well.

    “”I’m sure coming from so far away … you become fractioned off,”” he said.

    For these foreign swimmers, the UA becomes their home far away from home, giving them something else to honor and represent.

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