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Swimming Upstream

By France Griggs Sloat

Things weren’t going so good for Akshayan Rajasingam. A member of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, Akshayan, who wanted to swim competitively for his country, needed to find an alternative outlet for his swimming. So he made an important decision. He would train in America.

Easier said than done, but Akshayan was determined. He applied to those NCAA Division I schools that had both a swimming team and physics. Xavier offered him freshman admission and $12,000 in financial aid. His family pooled their money to pay the difference.

Assistant swimming coach Chris Gage told him in August 2004 the team was full, and his times would have to improve. “I was determined to prove to him that all I needed was a chance to prove myself,” Akshayan says.

So he joined a local YMCA team and started training. At first, he took the bus downtown for the daily practice, but it was too costly, so he got a bicycle. Fall became winter, but he kept riding through rain, freezing temperatures, snow and traffic, an hour each way. He often arrived at his dorm with his clothes soaked through.

The effort was worth it. Noting a 3.3 grade point average in his double major of physics and math, and improved times, coach George Rathman let him try out in the spring. He made the team, one of 17 new swimmers this fall.

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