‘My American Dream’: Iowa freshman swimmer Sabína Kupčová’s journey from Slovakia to Iowa City

Kupčová decided to come to Iowa City without visiting the campus.


Vincenzo Mazza

Iowa’s Sabina Kupcova comes in fast with her finishing up the butterfly portion of the the 50 Yard during day one of the 2022 Hawkeye Invitational at the Campus recreational and Wellness Center in Iowa City on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Kupcova came in 19th place with a time of 24:00.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

Sabína Kupčová stood out right away to Iowa women’s swimming and diving head coach Nathan Mundt as one of only two freshmen from outside the U.S.  

After the reinstatement of the Iowa women’s swimming and diving program in February 2021, the roster only had 13 athletes because of transfers and a lack of recruiting amid turmoil in the team and athletics department. 

Mundt, hired in May 2021, was tasked with expanding the roster through recruiting, both traditionally and through the transfer portal. With the help from new recruiting coordinator Mona Groteguth, Mundt was determined to build the program back up. 

Mundt and Groteguth added nine names to the roster — including Slovakian swimmer Kupčová — from 2021-22 to 2022-23, going from 13 to 22 athletes. Three new transfers joined the program, and 12 freshmen came to Iowa City as six athletes left the program. 

“We got to know Sabína through a recruiting service,” Mundt said. “I met with her recruiting service representative. He saw the facilities ahead of time and really relayed that information to Sabína. It was very unique, and she was engaged the whole time.” 

COVID-19 hindered Kupčová’s recruiting experience. Because of the travel ban in the U.S., Kupčová relied on virtual tours of the Hawkeyes’ facilities to make her decision.

“It was really hard to decide online, but I really fell in love with the city,” Kupčová said. Mona and Nate are really good people, and that is the thing that stuck the most for me” 

Although Kupčová was the first swimmer in her family, her club coach in Levice said she had a good touch and feel for the water. Knowing this, Kupčová and her parents decided she would pursue the sport. 

Kupčová kept improving after going to a boarding high school to chase her passion. While there, she represented Slovakia in World and European championships.

“I started getting better and better, and when I was 13, I got recruited to the national team,” Kupčová said. “I entered my first World Championships when I was 15. It was a really cool experience to see what the swimming world actually looks like.”

After years of competing at an international level for Slovakia, Kupčová was interested in potentially coming to the U.S to pursue not only a swim career but a college education as well. 

“My home country is hard to come by swimming and higher education. It was kind of my American dream,” Kupčová said. 

Kupčová has made an immediate impact for the Hawkeyes. The freshman has four first-place finishes, the sixth-fastest 100-free in program history, and anchors the 400-meter relay team.

“We knew through the recruiting process that Sabína has a lot of talent,” Mundt said. “I think she is very mature and understands the balance she needs to be successful academically and athletically. She knows her limits at that age.”