Athlete Spotlight: Mal Vishwanath

Max Felsenstein

“I definitely want to keep swimming even after my career at Drew is done,” swimmer Mal Vishwanath (‘20) said. “Coincidentally, my 4-year career at Drew ends in 2020, which is also when the next Olympics are going to be held. If things keep going the way they are, I hope to make an Olympic qualification cut.”

Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year, first Team All-Landmark in the 200 Free, 500 Free, 1650 Free and 800 Free, while setting a new conference and meet record in the 200 Freestyle with a winning time of 1:54:09. Vishwanath, a psychology major, not only accomplished all of these records in her rookie season, but she also set school records in eight different events.

As if Vishwanath did not accomplish enough last season, both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams opened up their seasons this past weekend with a meet against Stevens Institute of Technology, and Vishwanath picked up as if she never left. She won Landmark Conference Athlete of the Week with NCAA-leading times in the 1650 freestyle and 1000-yard split.

“My only goal was to see how fast I could go in the 1650 freestyle, and see how close I could make it to the NCAA qualifying mark,” Vishwanath said. “The time I posted wasn’t too far off from my goal, and I think it established a strong baseline for the rest of the season.”

“Performance isn’t really at the forefront of my mind when I compete. I try to focus on the techniques I can improve on, and just overall focus on swimming a good race and leaving everything in the pool,” Vishwanath said.

Many athletes rest on their laurels, but not Vishwanath. She tries to live in the present, but does not let her end goal ever truly escape her mind. As aforementioned, she wants to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2020, held in Tokyo, Japan.

Qualifying for the Olympic games is an extremely strenuous process and becomes arduous even when one has worked their entire life with this goal in mind. For Vishwanath, the journey continues every day with this goal in mind, but it has become especially prominent since she competed in the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in Windsor, Canada in 2017. She swam there with hopes of consideration for the Olympics by the Swimming Federation of India.

“The experience was so inspiring to me, there’s no feeling like sharing a pool with some of the people who have gone on to create World Records and win Olympic medals,” Vishwanath said.  “Watching them race provided invaluable insight into what it takes to be able to reach such an elite level of performance.”

Transitioning to college can be difficult for some, especially an athlete. Coming from Delhi Public School in India was a seamless transition for the swimming star. “People always told me how different life in the States was going to be, and that it was going to take me all of my freshman year to acclimate. That couldn’t be further from the truth. To me, feels like it was where I was meant to be all along,” Vishwanath said.

While Vishwanath pushes herself, she also pushes her teammates. “They are my strongest support system,” she said. “It still amazes me how little time it took all of us to become so incredibly close…I’m surrounded by a group of such hard-working and positive individuals, who are all a huge part in making the program what it is today.”

This was evident when Vishwanath not only broke eight records last season, but also that the entire Swimming and Diving teams, both male and female broke 25 records as a program.

“Mal helps us excel every practice because swimming next to someone with her ability creates an environment where the rest of the team pushes themselves and try to keep up with her,” Swimming Captain Jen Stein (‘18) said.

“Above all, these meets are truly the embodiment what it means to swim for a team where everyone has your back and cheers for you till their voice is gone. There’s absolutely no bitterness when you, or someone else, loses a race. This is competitive spirit at its purest form, and there’s no feeling that matches it,” Vishwanath said.
The next Swimming and Diving meet is today, October 20th on the campus of Montclair State University at 5 p.m., where the women’s team looks to avenge last season’s loss.

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