Student-Athlete Spotlight

Kimberly Phan, W'18 - Women's Swimming & Diving

1. Name: Kimberly Phan

2. Class Year: 2018

3. Sport: Women's Swimming & Diving

4. Position: Sprint Free/Fly

5. Why did you choose Penn?

I chose Penn because I wanted to pursue my academic pursuits at a world-renowned university, without compromising my chance to compete and train at one of the highest levels of collegiate sport. When I arrived on my recruiting trip to Penn as a shy, quiet high school senior, I never imagined how much this team and this place would become my home. I immediately felt a part of the team, and I looked up to what the upperclassmen were accomplishing - both in and out of the pool. I knew that I wanted to be surrounded by these sorts of people every single day.

6. What does the experience of being a Penn Swimming student-athlete mean to you?

I am beyond thankful to be a Penn student-athlete. Despite the early morning practices, the challenge of balancing school work and training, and the constant hunger and fatigue, I have gained so much more than I could have ever imagined from swimming for four years at this level. Come May, when I graduate from Penn and enter the “real” world, I will leave knowing that I am prepared for whatever life throws at me.

Being a student-athlete has taught me how to face both the ups and downs in life, whether it was staying up late into the night to study for an exam and then getting up for morning practice the next day, or leaning on my teammates after I was injured and couldn’t swim during my sophomore season. It has taught me to ask for help when needed, and share in the joy of each others’ successes. Most importantly, it has taught me that I can conquer whatever I put my mind to. I plan to carry this drive, commitment, diligence, and tenacity into whatever comes next for me.

Lastly, I leave behind a family of teammates. Through my four years on the team, I have come to know seven classes of swimmers and divers. Each class and the individuals within it have impacted my collegiate experience, and many of these individuals have had a profound impact on the person I am today.

For all of these experiences I have been given, and all of the connections I have fostered along the way, I am incredibly thankful.

7. What would you say to the donors who invest in your experience as a Swimming student-athlete? 

From the bottom of my heart - thank you. Nothing would be possible without the help of our donors. From allowing us to get team gear, to funding our travel to and from dual and championship meets, it is safe to say that our team would not be the way it is without your support. Thank you for believing in us as a team and as a program, and we will continue to work hard this season to make Penn Swimming and Diving the best it can be. 

8. What has been your favorite moment/memory with Penn Swimming?

My favorite memory of Penn Swimming is always the training trip - which I say with a grain of salt. Every winter break, the team heads down to Boca Raton, Florida for a 10 day training trip in the sun - consisting of swim workouts, drylands, constant eating, and napping. It is one of the most physically and mentally demanding training blocks of the year - and yet we all become better athletes, teammates, and friends because of it. Through mutual suffering, we create strong team bonds with one another and great memories.

As a senior, I recognize that I may not find myself in many similar situations in the future. During training trip, the entire team focuses on a singular goal - to push ourselves to become the best athletes we can be. It is an incredibly motivating and unique environment, and I always look forward to seeing how close we become and how much we improve after it. 

9. What does life after Penn look like?

I’ll be trying out my hand on Wall Street post-graduation, which I’m incredibly excited for. That being said, I’m keeping a very open mind, so the next few years could also involve grad school, some non-profit work, or anything in between! I’d like to spend a couple years living in different cities across the US and internationally, but one day I’m sure I’ll end up back in Toronto, my hometown. 

10. What are some lessons that you have learned through athletics at Penn that will stay with you after graduation?

  1. Focus on the little things. Swimming at Penn gave me the opportunity to work on improving myself in the pool, every single day. Each practice, I had the chance to improve my stroke, my speed, my endurance, and/or my attitude, and I learnt that excellence can only truly be achieved through minor adjustments made everyday.
  2. You’re tougher than you think. Swimming is tough. Academics are tough. Trying to balance the two, in addition to everything else occurring in a typical college student’s life, is even tougher. That being said, with the right mentality, support, and guidance, you can achieve beyond what you expected.
  3. Rely on your network. I developed some of my closest friendships and mentorships through Penn Athletics. When the going got tough, I always knew that my teammates would have my back - and vice versa. There is no way I would have come this far without the help of my friends and coaches, and I am grateful for them every day.