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Northwestern University

Eyes on the Prize

Jordan Wilimovsky '16 is aiming for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic swim team

(Editor's note: On July 27, Jordan Wilimovksy secured his spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team by winning the open-water 10-kilometer race at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia.)

Compared to most college students, Jordan Wilimovsky’s life is anything but common.

During the school year, the California native’s day often begins at 5:30 a.m., where Wilimovsky follows a modest breakfast with 8,000 meters in the Norris Aquatics Center pool at Northwestern.

Thereafter, he heads to the campus dining hall for a bigger breakfast, favoring protein and vegetable-packed omelettes over donuts or cereal, before venturing to classes such as “Variations in International Order” with Professor Hendrik Spruyt and “Nonstate Armed Groups” with Professor Ana Maria Arjona.

By 2:30 p.m., he’s back in the pool for another 10,000 meters, bringing his daily total in the water to more than 11 miles.

By 6:00 p.m., Wilimovsky’s at the dinner table, frequently digging into carbohydrate-heavy pasta. An hour later, he’s into his books before settling into bed about 10:30 p.m. and repeating the process again.

Such is Wilimovsky’s life as one of Northwestern’s top student-athletes, a Big Ten champion swimmer and three-time All-American whose uncommon daily routine has now morphed into an equally uncommon choice: just one year shy of earning his degree in political science, Wilimovsky is putting his Northwestern career on pause.

In June, Wilimovsky returned to his hometown of Malibu, Calif., to train with his club swimming team and devote the next year of his life to a singular mission: a spot in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I didn’t want to regret not chasing this goal with everything I had,” says Wilimovsky, who began contemplating the decision to take an academic hiatus at the start of his junior year.

Last April, Wilimovsky captured the USA Swimming 10K open water national championship, a win that secured him a spot at the 2015 World Championships in Russia this July. If Wilimovsky can collect a top 10 finish in Russia, he will lock in his trip to Rio.

“To compete in the Olympics would be an incredible dream and it’s something in the back of my mind every day,” says Wilimovsky, who began open water swimming at age 16.

In addition to pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the open water event, Wilimovsky also has a chance to qualify in the pool as well should he choose to enter the 1500-meter event at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June 2016.

“Whether the open water of the pool, I’m just excited to be able to chase a goal like the Olympics,” he says.

While taking a year off from Northwestern was a difficult decision, Wilimovsky believes a year off to focus solely on his athletic pursuits is the right move.

“Truthfully, school at Northwestern is probably harder than swimming,” Wilimovsky says. “I’m giving up a lot [by taking this year off], but there’s so much I can gain as well.”

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