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Northwestern University

Q&A: Jordan Wilimovsky

Political Science, Class of 2016

Wilimovsky, the world champion in the 10km open-water swim, will be going for the gold at the 2016 Olympic Games.

In the history of Northwestern, only a handful of student athletes have aimed for Olympic glory in the midst of their undergraduate careers. Jordan Wilimovsky, a political science major from Malibu, Calif., is among them. After winning the world championship in the 10-km open-water swim last summer, Wilimovsky is now a serious contender for the gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

Weinberg magazine caught up with Wilimovsky to learn more about his training regimen, where his mind goes when he’s in the water, and how political science might relate to the world of international swimming.  

You’ve been on leave from Northwestern this year to prepare for the Games. How’s it going? 

I’m used to putting in a lot of time training. And this year, I haven’t been constricted by the NCAA’s 20-hour rule [limiting the time spent participating in athletics each week]. So I’ve been training about seven hours a day. 

That’s a lot of time in the water. What do you think about when you swim?

I get asked that a lot, and it’s hard to describe. It’s kind of like watching a movie. If it’s exciting, you don’t really notice that two and a half hours have passed. Other times, it’s boring and it drags on, but you just try to think about your race strategy and make sure that you’re in a good spot and conserving energy.

Are there any parallels between training for the Olympics and pursuing a Northwestern degree?  

Neither one is easy. I mean, there’s time management to consider, and you can’t take days off. Truthfully, school at Northwestern is probably harder than swimming. You just have to work as hard as you can in both cases. 

Have you missed anything at Northwestern this past year?    

I’ve missed my team. I’m friendly with the guys on the Olympic team, but I do miss training and practicing with my Northwestern teammates. About five or six of them are going to come down to watch me compete in Rio this summer.

You’re majoring in political science. Is there anything you’ve learned that you can apply to Olympic-level swimming?  

Last year, I took a class with Professor Hendrik Spruyt that explored theories of international relations and how countries interact on a global scale. It’s been my favorite class so far. I’m looking forward to testing some of those theories when I get to the Olympics. 

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