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UT Grad Student Takes European Gold

Published: January 12, 2010
When former University of Tampa swimmer Aleksander Hetland finished his race at the 2009 European Short Course Swimming Championships, he looked up at the clock and was stunned to see he had grabbed the gold.

“I was in awe. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it was me,” said Hetland, a UT graduate student who still trains with the UT swim team. “I was hoping to get another medal, but I wasn’t prepared for being number one.”

Hetland had earned a bronze in 2006 and silvers in 2007 and 2008, swimming like he did in this year’s Dec. 12 championships in Istanbul, Turkey, for his home country of Norway. Reaching the benchmark gold he said gave validation to the sweat and sacrifice that it took over the years to get to that achievement.

“I was standing up there on the podium with all these people I’ve looked up to. I was so fortunate to reach that,” said Hetland who completed the 50-meter breaststroke in 26.19 seconds. “That was a really strong moment for me.”

Hetland earned his business degree in three years from Southern Methodist University in Dallas before coming to UT for the graduate business program. Since he still had a year of NCAA eligibility, he joined the UT swim team and competed in the ’08-’09 season. For his second year of grad school, he continues to train with the team and help out when he can. He hopes to graduate with his MBA in May.

“Alex is far and away the most talented breaststroker I have ever had the pleasure to coach. I’ve learned as much as I’ve taught,” said Ed Brennan, UT’s head swim coach. “With Alex it was a collaboration. He had a great deal of latitude and input into his training. In fact it was really like having another coach in the pool.”

Hetland’s UT swim career includes a school record in the 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley, and was part of the 200-meter and 400-meter medley relay teams that set a new UT record. Hetland earned the NCAA individual national championship in 2009 in the 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter breaststroke.

“It’s not easy but it’s fun,” Hetland said. “I’ve had success far beyond my expectations, and I have the coaches to thank for it.”

Hetland said he chose UT for the academic experience and has been delighted to find a fit on the swim team. As one of the older members, Hetland said Brennan gives him more freedom and tailors the program for Hetland’s specific needs.

“It’s been more of a partnership which has been really great,” Hetland said.

Once he graduates, Hetland said he’ll focus on his business career which has taken the backburner due to his swimming. Making that decision, especially when he’s surpassed all of the swim goals he has set for himself, is difficult. The FINA World Swimming Championships in Dubai in December and then maybe the London 2012 Olympic Games are seeming more within reach than he had considered before.

“I try to take just one step at a time,” Hetland said. “I love the goal setting and individual competition of swimming. In the end, you’re working toward meeting that goal, making something greater of yourself. It’s always been my way to just be the best that I can be.”

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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