Olympic Student-Athletes: Life After Rio

In regards to all olympic sports, we can take a guess on the average athlete’s preparation regimen: thousands of hours of practice, laser-like focus on diet, lighting glass cups on fire and suctioning your shoulder (OK, maybe that’s just Michael Phelps). Don’t forget missing out on social life and carrying the pressure of representing your country.

Imagine shouldering that kind of responsibility, plus making a 9 AM lecture.

This year, the NCAA sent 168 student-athletes to Rio to compete in 15 sports and represent various countries. We’re featuring student-olympians in pursuit of STEM degrees to show how they manage their busy lifestyles with mathematical precision. Much like their coursework, their productivity is down to a science.

After reading the amazing stories below, we hope you feel encouraged to add more efficiency to your studying habits this semester. Try a mobile tutoring app like Yup, so you can understand your math/physics/chemistry homework and free up time to get active like an olympian.

Sovijja Pou, Brown University

Sport: Swimming

Major: Biology/applied math concentration, liberal medical education program

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Representing Cambodia, Sovijja is dedicated to maintaining a healthy balance between school and swimming. According to his feature in the student newspaper, Sovijja still spends 20 hours a week in the pool during the academic year.

“At Brown, I’m not known as just ‘the swimmer’ or just ‘the student,’ ” Pou says. “I can have an intellectual conversation with anyone here — or I can choose not to. When I was younger, I would get wrapped up in overthinking things. When I got to Brown … the openness here made me feel a lot less stressed than I was before. This has improved my mental health, improved my grades and improved my swimming by just allowing me to let go and let things happen.”

Weinreich says that Pou’s work in the lab is defined by a quiet but confident and persistent work ethic: “He’s really unburdened by an ego. He feels there is a lot to learn and is keen to ask questions. He is prepared to work hard, and he just wants to get better.”

Pou swam the 100m freestyle to kick off the 2016 events.

Virginia Thrasher, West Virginia University

Sport: Shooting

Major: Engineering

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Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jeremy Lee

The 19-year-old from Virginia blew the competition away at the first finals in Rio: the women’s 10-meter air rifle. Her gold medal would be the first of many for the USA. What does a teen do after out-shooting her older competitors? According to USA Today:

She’ll go back to West Virginia, where she will be a sophomore. “I get home 20 hours before the first class. So I’ll be in physics at 8:30 a.m.”

Hold on… from Brazil to West Virginia with a gold medal and you still find time to calculate the acceleration of mass? Respect, Ginny.

Simone Manuel, Stanford University

Sport: Swimming

Major: Undecided, considering communications or science, tech, and society

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 11: Simone Manuel of the United States celebrates after winning gold in the Women’s 100m Freestyle Final on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The 20-year-old made history by securing a gold medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle, becoming the first African American to win an individual swimming event in the olympics. She has shattered other records while at Stanford and is feared by her competition.

To compete at the highest level, she opted to take time off her freshman year:

“I wanted to put 100 percent of my effort into Olympic trials and not separating my, I guess, uh, … man, being out of school has, like, fried my brain,” said the 19-year-old, with a laugh. “I didn’t want to separate my priorities.”

But she still encourages her teammates who remained in class:

“I definitely don’t feel guilty,” said Manuel, with another laugh, who is in full support of her teammates at Stanford. “I’m giving them all the encouragement that they need. Asking them, ‘How are finals?’ But that was another reason why I decided to redshirt and take the last quarter off academically. It’s stressful preparing for finals and trying to swim fast at this meet and at trials and move out of your dorm.”

Manuel will return as a sophomore in Stanford this fall, with more time to devote to academics in the off-season.

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