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Freshman Alex Fu lines up at the starting blocks before the men's 50-yard freestyle event during the meet against Columbia at Sheerr Pool on Nov. 5. Credit: Samantha Turner

For Penn men’s swimming freshman Alex Fu, competing at the collegiate level was just a dream when he first started summer league swimming at the age of five years old. Thirteen years of experience later, however, it's become a part of his reality. 

Hailing from Sugar Land, Tx., Fu was a three-time Texas 6A State Championship Finalist, and also earned USA Swimming Scholastic All-American honors for his efforts. Now at Penn, the freshman has quickly established himself as a valuable piece of the team.

During a Nov. 12 meet at Brown, Fu helped Penn to a first-place finish in the 200-medley relay by swimming a 1:30:29. In the closest event of the meet, he also picked up his first of two wins in the 50-yard freestyle (20.76), that being Penn’s only 1-2-3 sweep of the day. In addition to that, Fu also picked up a win in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 48.82.

And just this past Saturday, Fu notched a first-place finish in the B-Final of the 100 fly at the Zippy Invitational.

“Alex has been tremendous this fall,” Penn coach Michael Schnur said. “He has been one of the top sprinters and flyers in the league already as a freshman and has been instrumental in our successes.” 

Part of the reason Fu chose Penn during his junior year of high school was thanks to Schnur; Fu saw him as being capable of helping him achieve his goals, and Schnur sold him on the program as a whole.

“What led me to Penn was the combination of high-level academics and athletics,” Fu said. “Team atmosphere is important to me, and I felt like Penn had the environment that I was looking for based upon what I had seen and heard."

Like many other high school athletes, Fu was initially hampered by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Despite his relatively early return to the pool the following month, Fu nevertheless stated that he faced numerous motivational challenges related to his swimming career surrounding a lack of competition. 

“The biggest challenges that I faced had to be with maintaining a high motivation level, as I was training but was not able to compete with other teams or swimmers,” he said. “I had to train without knowing when my next meet would be, and it was hard to stay positive at times.”

Though he acknowledges that competing against other swimmers motivates him, Fu especially gains confidence from his family members, who also have a swimming background.

“My parents and sister along with my teammates push me the most,” Fu said. “My parents are very supportive of me and have done everything that they could to help me reach the ability to swim at a collegiate level. My sister and teammates are also very supportive, but they are the ones that I am racing during practice and physically push me to my limits. 

“I also really hate to lose, and this helps motivate me in practice.”

With three and a half more seasons to go as a Quaker, Fu has plenty more opportunities to not lose. Judging by the start of his first season, he seems to be well on his way to doing just that.