James Madison University

JMU Student Competes in the Olympics

By: Vilina Phan
Posted: October 22, 2012

PHOTO: JMU Student at Olympics

It is day six of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and the aquatic center is filled with nervous anticipation. As the second heat begins for the 400 Meter Medley Relay, four girls from Iceland stepped up to the platform. One of the swimmers is Eva Hannesdottir, currently a kinesiology senior at JMU. Hannesdottir lived out the dream shared by many this summer: competing in the Olympics.

“The relay was so amazing, I barely remember the race itself because I was so nervous, we all were, but we tried to stay calm and have fun” said Hannesdottir.

Back in May, with the semester wrapped up, Hannesdottir received the news that she had qualified to swim for the Icelandic Olympic team. She was to swim anchor in the team relay.

The Icelandic swimmers trained in France for a month prior to arriving in the UK. “When we first arrived in London, everything felt so unreal. It took a while to sink in, but once the competition started, it began to feel somewhat like a swim meet,” said Hannesdottir.

The spirit of the Olympics is about more than just medals, it’s about putting aside differences and connecting with a variety of people across different sports and hearing their stories. “I was excited to meet the other athletes, it was very cool to meet Serena Williams and Tony Parker, they were really nice and interested in Iceland,” said Hannesdottir.

“The [Olympic] village was amazing. The food court was enormous and was open 24/7. In there you could find almost anything to eat Italian, African, Chinese, European and of course McDonalds. They also had a game room called ‘The Globe’ where you could play pool, foosball, video games or watch movies. The village also had a hair and nail salon, but they were completely booked when I tried to make an appointment after my race. It felt incredible being a part of it all,” said Hannesdottir.

PHOTO: JMU Student at Olympics

Influenced by her sister, Hannesdottir began swimming at the age of seven. At that time she was also participating in gymnastics and handball (similar to field hockey but players throw the ball to each other). By the age of 10 she quit gymnastics, and by age 12 she quit handball, focusing entirely on swimming.

Hannesdottir came to the United States in 2008 with the intention to swim in college. Originally she swam for the University of New Orleans, before transferring to and swimming for JMU at the varsity level in 2010. Hannesdottir jokes, “the reason I chose JMU was because of Kline’s, I think I went there three times during my two day visit.”

It turns out, great ice cream wasn’t her only deciding factor, “I really liked the team, they seemed to have fun at practices, the campus is so pretty and has many different dining options. Soon after my short visit I was able to see myself go here and got excited right away,” said Hannesdottir.

Transferring schools required Hannesdottir to shift her academic focus. Her interest in nutrition led her to initially major in dietetics although Hannesdottir eventually changed her major to kinesiology, concentrating in exercise science. The switch allowed Hannesdottir more time to improve her swimming.

"In the exercise science program, they touch on many different aspects of the human body and basically everything related to physical activity, so in a way I learn about how different types of training affects the body, and I do find myself thinking about those things while I’m in the pool or the weight room,” said Hannesdottir.

Exercise Science allowed Hannesdottir to focus on topics more relevant to her as a swimmer, but also better balanced her schedule as a student athlete. “We usually have crazy schedules and sometimes have to miss classes due to away meets...the key is to be organized and flexible. It took me awhile to find balance at first...I believe that if you care about your team and want to succeed, you'll find a way to make it work.” said Hannesdottir.

Although the results of the race were not in favor of the Icelandic team, it did not stop them from enjoying themselves. Participating in the Olympics is an honor within itself.

After her whirlwind summer, Hannesdottir has settled into her semester. She is planning on graduating in May 2013, with no definite plans for the future. She wants to eventually attend graduate school and plans to use her kinesiology degree to work with children, but for now she is enjoying her last year at JMU.