Swimming and diving welcomes diversity

Photo by Jamie Howell

Tech owes much of its success to its diverse group of students. Not only does Tech excel in academics, Tech’s athletic programs have seen great success. The Jackets may be feeling down over recent football losses, but Tech swimming and diving has every reason to celebrate. The Jackets opened the season triumphant and hope to end the season successfully at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, the second championship in program history to be hosted by Tech at the Campus Recreation Center.

Welcoming sixteen international students and an internationally renowned coach to the program, Tech swimming and diving is steadily expanding its global footprint. In fact, the program has welcomed the largest number of international students out of all Tech’s athletic programs. Head Coach Courtney Shealy Hart’s goal is to develop a program that fosters global champions.

The Jackets look forward to the success that Olympic swimmer and incoming freshman Iris Wang will bring to the program. Wang competed and placed fourth in the 4×100 freestyle relay for China in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Coach Hart welcomed Neil Versfeld to the program as assistant coach.

“We are thrilled to have Neil join our staff,” Coach Hart commented. “His experience as an international Olympian and NCAA Champion will be extremely valuable in helping our team reach its goals. In addition, his international connections will continue to help us recruit some of the finest student athletes from all over the world.”

Versfeld has competed around the world. A native of South Africa, he competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, as well as the 2009, 2010 and 2011 World Championships.

Versfeld placed fourth at the 2010 World Championships. With his experience as an international competitor, Versfeld expands Tech’s global network in swimming and diving. Versfeld coached for Swim Atlanta as well as the Seals Swimming Club in South Africa. Fostering a diverse program has brought Coach Hart and the Jackets the success they were looking for. Both men’s and women’s swimming and diving are ranked in the CollegeSwimming.com Top 25 poll. The men’s team is ranked No. 7, and women’s No. 21.

The swimming and diving opener on Oct. 2 was a success. With a score of 180.00 to 111.00 the men gained a victory over Penn State. The women overcame Liberty 178.00 to 120.00 but lost to Penn State.

Senior captain Yuval Safra, hailing from Timrat, Israel, won the 1000-freestyle by almost 14 seconds. He has quickly become one of Tech’s finest distance swimmers. Last year, Safra posted fifteen first place victories and career best times in seven different events. His career best time of 1:43:49 in the 200-back during the Yellow Jacket Championship Qualifier earned him second place in school history. Earlier this year, Safra placed No. 26 worldwide in the 5K Open Water in the FINA World Championship.

Sophomore Moises Loschi, who came to Tech from Venegazzu, Italy, was victorious in three events during Friday’s opener: the 100- and 200-breast and the 400-medley relay. Loschi joined the Jackets last spring and immediately brought in victories as a distance swimmer in free and breast events.

Tech has been always been a university of great diversity, drawing students from around the world due to excellence in science and engineering. As a result, Tech is growing more diverse every day, a trait that has begun to spread into the athletic programs. As the swimming and diving team continues to improve, it becomes clear that diversity benefits not only our academics, but the sports teams, as well.