Culture and experience boost swim team


Photo Credit: Hawkeye Sports (not pictured: Jayah Mathews)

Anna Kayser, [email protected]

This season, the Iowa swimming and diving team added three freshmen from outside the United States: swimmer Daniel Swanepoel from South Africa, diver Jonatan Posligua from Ecuador, and diver Jayah Mathews from Australia.

“I think [international swimmers bring] a real opportunity for our team to interact with a worldwide flavor,” head coach Marc Long said. “Sometimes they come in with a higher level of international competition, so they’re used to competing on more of a world stage.”

Mathews is a good example of an athlete having experience competing on a world stage. Most notably, she competed at the 2014 and 2016 World Junior Diving Championships in Russia. She also competed on the 2016 and 2017 Australian National Team and the 2016 Australian Junior World Championship Team.

That experience isn’t the only positive addition with international swimmers.

“Competitively yes, they’re bringing a really great influence onto the team as we head into our championship season, but culturally, it’s a great experience for some of our kids to be exposed to people who have competed all over the world,” Long said.

Coming to Iowa introduces many international swimmers to the team concept. Sometimes, swimming is mainly an individual sport in the countries they come from.

Some of the athletes don’t get a chance to go back home until summer, so the team often helps with homesickness.

“I didn’t really have a team back home, I swam mainly by myself, so coming in and having the whole team atmosphere really helps with the whole missing home thing,” Swanepoel said. “I feel at home here.”

The team is often a factor in an athlete’s decisions to become a Hawkeye.

“In Australia it was really different, it was more of an individual sport — and it is an individual sport — but having the team is really nice,” Mathews said. “Everyone’s so supportive and it’s just a really great team.”

Another factor in coming to Iowa is the training facility and the Athletics Department.

Iowa’s training program has already improved the skills in those new athletes.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress during all of the months I’ve been here,” Posligua said. “I’ve had really good meets this season, and I think it’s been good for being my freshman year,”

Posligua attributes his improvement to the way that the team takes care of athletes and the way athletes are immersed into the program during both meets and practice.

He chose Iowa as his school because of the diving program and the success it has had.

“I’ve been diving for about 12 years and my goal has been to improve to a high level and to be inserted in the elite level,” Posligua said. “That’s the reason that I’m here.”

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