It is no secret that balancing academics and athletics would be hard for any athlete. The amount of time spent perfecting the sport of swimming, staying on top of school work and balancing a personal life is not an easy task. But Sven Saemundsson and Alarii Levreault-Lopez understand that academics and athletics are two separate worlds in which they live in.
Saemundsson grew up in Rijeka, Croatia. He realized at an early age that he had a passion for math and science. Obtaining a degree in chemical engineering is what drove Saemundsson to attend Louisiana State University.
“I find chemical engineering fascinating because they have an opportunity to design a new process which can make something and potentially change the world,” Saemundsson said.
When the 20-year-old freshman received an email from the LSU Swimming and Diving Department, he became interested in the engineering program.
“I really like the coaches. The [swim] team was also interested in people who wanted to become LSU athletes,” Saemundsson said. “I found that to be the most appealing quality of all. The engineering program is also one of the best programs in the country.”
Saemundsson is not the only one who took interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.
Levreault-Lopez, a petroleum engineering sophomore, grew up in a math and science-based household. Both of his parents were chemical engineers. Although his parents encouraged him to look into other fields, he decided a career in engineering was more suitable for him.
“I was better at solving numbers and looking at equations than writing papers,” Levreault-Lopez said.
The 20-year-old Boston native said he wanted to find a school that gave him the right mix of academics and athletics. When he came here for his official visit, Levreault-Lopez said he bonded really well with the team.
“I figured why not?” Levreault-Lopez said. “It seemed like a really good option and I am enjoying it.”
Levreault-Lopez learned at an early age that swimming consumed a lot of his free time, but he doesn’t let that stop him from getting his coursework done. He said the LSU Athletic Department has helped him balance academics and athletics. The department requires freshman athletes to attend study hall throughout the week. When an athlete reaches a certain GPA, the time is reduced.
“I don’t think I would be doing as well in school without swimming,” Levreault-Lopez said. “Not only is it something that keeps me healthy mentally, physically and emotionally, it is something I can do to release any stress about school.”
Although swimming plays a major role in both of their lives, the student-athletes realized they want something more out of life. Since there are no chemical companies in Croatia, Saemundsson said he would like to get a job in the United States. Levreault-Lopez said one thing on his career bucket list is to work internationally in Mexico.
“I visit Mexico a lot with my father and it is a lot of fun,” Levreault-Lopez said. “I love the culture.”
Nevertheless, Levreault-Lopez said at some point in his career he would like to work domestically.
Outside of class, Levreault-Lopez and Saemundsson are training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Saemundsson said he almost made it to the 2016 Rio Olympics, but his time was not as fast as it should have been.
“I did everything I could and sometimes you just don’t succeed in all of your goals,” Saemundsson said. “You have to keep moving forward.”
But that valuable experience will propel him to train harder in preparation for the next Olympics.
Levreault-Lopez said the ultimate goal is to make it onto the Olympic Team. He traveled to Omaha, Nebraska this past summer to qualify for the United States Olympic Trials. Unfortunately, he was not chosen.
He understood that missing out on spring break or staying an extra week during Christmas break was the commitment he had to make in order to become a better athlete, but he found it was worth it.
“They [LSU Athletics] gave me an opportunity of a lifetime,” Levreault-Lopez said. “It is an opportunity that I may not get again in my life.”
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Raven Nichols, communications intern, LSU College of Engineering