April 24, 2018

Liz Li: Big Ten Medal of Honor Finalist

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After being an outstanding student-athlete at the Ohio State University for the last four years what has been the most rewarding experience or opportunity during your time here?

As a student-athlete here at the Ohio State University for last four years, the most rewarding experience was singing Carmen Ohio with my teammates and coaches after every swimming meet. We gathered in a circle and put our arms around each other and started singing–prideful as Buckeye.  Just like the last phrase of the song, “how firm thy friendship OHIO,” I was so grateful that I was able to have a lot of true sisters and brothers throughout my experience as part of this awesome team. We thrive together, laugh together, and cry together through our commitment and hard work. In addition, I have so much pride wearing the Ohio State gear in the airport and in my travel, and as soon as people recognized where you were from, they would greet you by saying “O-H!.” As an international student-athlete for last four years, I feel like our team is my second family. I’m welcomed here, I’m loved here, and more importantly, we all have grown a lot in this family.

What makes you a good candidate for this award? Is there anyone, in particular, you would like to thank for helping you during your time at Ohio State?

As a nominee for this award, I’m honored and thankful for this opportunity. I believe I am a good candidate for this award because I have shown my ability to excel both in the pool and in the classroom. It is not easy to achieve a 3.7 GPA in addition to being recognized as a 7-time All- American for any student-athlete, but particularly for myself. I am from a non-English speaking country, and after I decided to come to the United States, I worked as hard as I could to overcome the language barrier in the classroom while working hard in the pool at the same time. I have grown a lot over the last four years and first, I want to give that credit to my family back home in China. I wouldn’t come to the States, and I wouldn’t be able to study and swim at the Ohio State without my parents’ unconditional love and support. The second person I would like to thank is my coach, Jordan Wolfrum, who is the most supportive, inspirational and encouraging coach I have ever worked with. I could not achieve what I have achieved now without her and she helped me tremendously to grow as a better and stronger young woman. She helped me to regain my confidence and passion for swimming and even for life. I am more positive, confident, and passionate than any other time because of her.

In your opinion what does it mean to be a student-athlete, especially at a university like Ohio State?

Being a student-athlete means you understand the definition of what hard work, toughness, and commitment are. At a university like Ohio State, it is critical to be the best version ourselves not only in the classroom but in the pool as well. It is much more than the hours we put into our sport, much more than the early wake-up time, the frustration we all go through throughout our season. Being a student-athlete means that we get to put our school’s name on our swimming caps and represent this institution doing what we love. We have worked hard to accomplish where we are and that pride of stepping out on game day is worth every ounce of sweat. For me, I could never duplicate the same sense of pride, doing anything else or anywhere else, as I do when competing for The Ohio State University.

After graduation how do you plan to take what you have learned as a student-athlete into the business world/professional athletic endeavors?

I graduated early last spring since I finished my degree ahead of time. I was accepted into the Master of Sports Coaching program here at the Ohio State, and have been taking graduate school coursework this spring semester after competing with the Chinese National Team in the fall. My dream job is to be a swim coach at the intercollegiate level in hopes of passing the knowledge and unique characteristics that I have learned as a student-athlete to those growing up in the sport of swimming. There is really not anything that I would love to do more than help people work hard to achieve their dreams and experience the real relationship of coach-athlete, athlete-athlete, and coach-coach in this profession. I am fortunate to have been influenced by so many great coaches, both in the classroom setting here in my graduate program and in the pool, which set up a foundation for me to know how to be a great coach. I will start working as a graduate assistant coach next fall with our swimming team to gain the on-deck experience, and I will be working as a volunteer assistant coach for my provincial team during this summer back in my home country.