Tianyou Zhang commits to Carnegie Mellon University for swim
Senior Tianyou Zhang will be swimming off to Carnegie Mellon University in the fall as a recruited breaststroker and pursue Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the 100-yard breaststroke, one of his best events, he has achieved a personal record of 56.07 seconds.
Zhang initially joined swimming for practical reasons; at age 5, his mother wanted him to participate in a sport to stay healthy. While he has tried other sports too, such as basketball, he has realized that he enjoys the self-dependency of an individual sport. As he made friends and began competing, swimming became his main extracurricular activity.
“I’m not really good at any other sports that require a lot of physical contact,” Zhang said. “I like that in swimming, you depend on yourself, and I just feel good in the water.”
Among his team, Zhang is known as both a focused athlete and a witty character. His coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, Kevin Zacher, remembers him often helping his teammates stay accountable and successful, while also keeping practices lighthearted and fun.
“I enjoy seeing how he interacts with his teammates and coaches,” Zacher said. “He has a sense of humor but is also always working hard, ready for anything.”
Training with numerous coaches throughout the years, Zhang has come to appreciate how each coach provides a new perspective on how to approach swimming, and all similarly push him to try his best. He especially appreciates that as he grew up and gained confidence, he was able to collaborate with coaches on their points of view to find the best methods to improve.
“When I was younger, I was scared of the coaches, so it was more ‘what they say, I do,’” Zhang said. “Now, I can collaborate with the coaches, giving my point of view and, with their greater years of experience, get their input on how to go about things.”
Zhang recalls most of his athletic journey as smooth sailing, but the six-month break from his freshman-year practices due to the COVID-19 quarantine was a major setback for him. Coming back to practices, he realized there was a lot of work ahead of him. He spent about a year and a half catching up to overcome this big challenge.
With the 15 to 17 hours Zhang dedicates each week, he has to prioritize practices and swim meets over hanging out with friends or going to school social events. Even so, Zhang believes balancing an athletic and academic life is part of the fun of devoting himself to his sport.
“You have to enjoy the process,” Zhang said. “It’s going to be rough and tiring, but you have to be disciplined and committed to your sport and keep on working hard.”
Moving on to swim for CMU, Zhang is excited to advance his swimming career with senior Jerry Chu who has also been recruited to swim for CMU. It is a rarity that the two are both breaststrokers from the same high school and swim club, becoming swimmers at the same university. Having swum together for nine years, Zhang is thankful to still have a close teammate to be continuing his journey with.
“It makes it a lot more fun trying to push yourself when you have a friend telling you to keep going,” Zhang said. “Swimming truly builds a family community.”