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Senior athletes commit to colleges – Shaunmei Lim: Northwestern University

Written by Elizabeth Chung

Senior Shaunmei Lim started diving when she was five years old. “My mom made me start swimming because I was a really chubby baby and she wanted me to lose weight fast,” Lim said. “I was really bad. I was the slowest kid. I just didn’t find it interesting swimming laps. But in the pool next to me, there were kids jumping off blue boards and I wanted to do that. So that’s how I started diving.”

Lim loves diving for two reasons: competition and the moment of free fall. “You feel really good when you’ve made it to Nationals and you know that your hard work brought you there,” Lim said. “Also, the feeling of being able to stay in the air and be in full control of your body is not only empowering, but also a special feeling that you don’t usually get. It’s kind of like the closest thing you can get to flying.”

Coach Ryan Wallace, who has been coaching Lim since she was young, believes that her focus as a diver was what helped Lim become the diver she is now. “She has the ability to stay focused all practice and block out outside distractions when she is on the pool deck,” he said.

After more than ten years of diving, Lim believes that diving has shaped her more than anything else. “Not only did I learn to be more responsible and considerate about my actions, but I also learned to take criticism better,” she said. “When my coach tells me what I’m doing wrong, I don’t take it personally anymore. It’s not my fault per se, more like things I need to fix and find ways to improve myself.”

Lim decided to commit to Northwestern University because she felt at home. “Chicago was like a nicer, cooler San Francisco,” she said. “I thought it was just like home except it’s in the Midwest. Northwestern is in the suburban area and reminds me of my neighborhood. I was like this is somewhere I really feel like I belong,” Lim said. “I have the unique opportunity to live somewhere else while feeling at home at the same time.”

When Wallace first heard of this news, he was excited. “I know the coach personally and the program very well,” he said. “It’s a demanding program but nothing she can’t handle for she has come from a strong diving club here at Stanford. I’m so happy and proud of her. She has improved so much from when she started. She continues to improve week in and week out and with this continuous improvement she will thrive so much in her college years.”

In college, Lim wants to focus on bettering her skills. “Where I am now is not where I can be,” she said. “I know that I can push myself a lot further and I know that I have more opportunities to further advance myself than I have at the moment. I feel like I can definitely become a better version of myself at college and go farther than I am right now.”

To other student divers, Lim and Wallace both want to emphasize the mental aspect. “I guess because diving is such a mental sport with so many intangible obstacles,  don’t let your mind stop you from doing things that you can do and take a few risks,” Lim said. “Our sport is 99 percent mental,” Wallace said. “You are constantly having a mind battle each day second guessing yourself if you can do the dive. So learning mental tricks to help you diminish the fears help a lot.”

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