By YI WU
AAP staff intern
MINNEAPOLIS – Having long curly black hair and always a drop of sunshine in her smile, champion swimmier Brianna Chu came to University of Minnesota last year carrying numerous admirable achievements.
Brianna was raised in a bi-racial family in Racine, Wisconsin. Her father, Gary Chu, comes from China and was also a competition swimmer for more than six years. Her American born mother, Diane Chu, noticed that her daughter Brianna enjoyed the water and started her on lessons. She joined her first swimming team at age seven.
“My parents are very supportive,” Brianna says. “They always went to the swimming pool and watched me until the end of training.”
As student at Case High School, Brianna was a member of South West Aquatics swimming club where she became a National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association All-American and an honorable mention in the 50 and 200 free relay.
Brianna’s many other honors include Academic All-American, All-State, All-Conference and All-City Honoree. She was named the team’s most valuable swimmer three times; was a four-year letter winner, and two-time all-country swimmer of the year.
Brianna still holds the school record in the 200 individual medley race; along with the 50 and 100 free style and the 100 backstroke. Meanwhile, she was a National Honor Society member and Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) scholar athlete.
In 2009, Brianna entered University of Minnesota with time of 58.02 in the 100 backstroke, 23.99 in the 50 freestyle and 53.16 in the 100 freestyle. She credits her coach of five years, Frank Michalowski, in large part for her outstanding abilities as a swimmer.
“He knows my personality so well,” Brianna recalls with a smile, “when I feel upset, he will say the right things to make me feel better.”
Brianna said that good communication between coaches and athletes is very important. She still keeps in touch with Coach Michalowski today via email and visits him when she is back in Wisconsin.
She is also thankful that her club coach, Bob White, helps her a lot in the process of choosing the right college. It was White who suggested the University of Minnesota, which she agreed to as a beautiful campus with a nice swimming pool facility and exceptional swimming program.
Most importantly, Brianna said she fell in love with the swimming team when she was in a recruiting trip. She recalled the team members’ friendliness moved her a lot.
“They are close like a family,” she adds.
In her freshman season at the University of Minnesota, Brianna started her Gopher career by competing in three events at the Minnesota Grand Prix. At the Falcon Invite, she competed in the 100 and 200 backstroke, the 100 freestyle and with the 200 freestyle and medley relays.
Finishing fourth in the 100 backstroke at Falcon Invite, she held a career-best time in 1:00.22. She was also a member of the 200 freestyle relay that won the event at the Minnesota Challenge.
Brianna said she has settled in mainly as the backstroke swimmer for the team. She enjoys swimming backstroke as the only style to swim on the back. She thinks it is interesting because one cannot see people when they are racing.
“You have to push yourself,” she says.
With so many accomplishments in a predominantly white sport, Brianna thinks it helps to create diversity and break the stereotype a little bit. She also considers that most Asian families do not know they can send kids to swimming clubs as an essential reason for there is not many Asian swimmers in America.
“To join the team when you are young is the best,” she adds.
Brianna swims two hours per day from Monday through Saturday. She has to make her classes fit around the training schedule so that they do not overlap. She learns how to prioritize time and make a productive life from her busy schedule.
Brianna’s goals are to be stronger and faster in the following days while keeping her GPA higher than 3.5. How to achieve those goals?
“Just keep pushing through it,” she answered confidently.