Team Player: Daniel Lester
When Daniel Lester x’13 first jumped into a pool, he was just doing what the doctor ordered. He picked up swimming at ten years old as a way to cope with asthma, and he hasn’t looked back since.
The Brisbane, Australia, native entered his junior season at the UW with three school records under his belt (he holds top times in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and in the 200-yard individual medley) and an ultimate goal on the horizon: qualifying for the Olympics. After finishing as a semi-finalist in Australia’s 2008 Olympic trials, Lester now hopes to improve on that performance and qualify for London 2012 at the Australian Championships in March.
“Swimming is like the NBA in Australia. It’s definitely the big Olympic sport,” says Lester, whose biggest personal accomplishment came when he competed for his country this summer at the World University Games in China, finishing ninth in the 100-meter butterfly. “Personally, the Australia swimming arena is what I really train for. The NCAA and the American stuff [are] kind of a bonus on top of that.”
But competing stateside brings its own challenges. Lester may rest comfortably at the top of the rankings Down Under, but he says he now has to work harder to put up the same numbers. “I came in fourth at the Australian Championships this year, and that would probably get me eighth here if I was lucky,” he says. “So the depth [of competition] is definitely a lot greater.”
Luckily, Lester — who hasn’t declared a major, but is applying to the Wisconsin School of Business — is no stranger to hard work. The two-time All-American spends at least twenty hours in the pool each week, training his body for the physical competition. On the blocks, however, it’s all about the mental game. “I love racing,” he says. “Once you’re there, you’ve done all the hard work — it’s just a matter of focusing and being in the right frame of mind. This is what you came here to do.”
Published in the Winter 2011 issue