Chang ’05 Swims for S. Korea

For a school with such a sterling reputation for its academics, Andover has produced its fair share of notable figures in the sports world: New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick ’71, Bill Veeck ’32, the former owner of the Chicago White Sox, and 1948 and 1952 Olympic swimming gold medalist James McLane. This summer at the 2008 Olympic games, another Phillips Academy aluma had her chance to shine. Hee-Jin Chang ’05 swam in Beijing representing her native country of South Korea. As any athlete will tell you, qualifying for the Olympics represents one of the greatest accomplishments possible. But the process starts early, when the athletes are just beginning to grow up. Chang was no exception: “I think that I was about seven when I started swimming. I always had a lot of energy when I was a kid, and my parents decided that I should play a sport. When it came to make a decision, we decided that swimming was the best sport for me.” Chang could not have chosen a better sport. Before even attending Andover, she competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia as a 14-year-old. By far one of the youngest swimmers at the Games, her 5’5” frame appeared miniscule next to women standing over six feet tall. After the Olympics, the South Korean Government told Chang that, as a uniquely talented swimmer, she must give up school, hire a tutor and swim for the majority of each day. But Chang valued academics too much to comply, and she applied to Andover, where she could earn a comprehensive education and still swim. Once at Andover, Chang was a star of the swim team, earning herself four letters in the sport and, three team MVP awards, and leading her team to the New England Prep School Championships four times in a row. “I had so much fun swimming at Andover! We had great team chemistry and we all had so much fun beating other teams,” she said. Andover Swim Coach Paul Murphy still remembers the impact of Chang’s presence on the team: “Her swimming when she was here was phenomenal. She cut the water! She was a phenom – not just here but also in NE swimming…She also holds many of the swimming records we have – and some may never fall.” Determined to be even faster, Chang knew she wanted to swim Division I in college, but without sacrificing academics. The University of Texas presented the perfect solution. “I knew a lot of people that swam there and they said they were having a fun time. Also, I wanted to go to a place where I could excel both academically and in swimming,” Chang, now a senior at the university, explained. Chang trains hard at Texas. Her mornings begin at 5:30 a.m and do not end until 5:00 p.m. The dedication paid off when she earned another Olympic spot on the 2008 Olympic team for South Korea. “After my experience in the 2000 Olympic Games, I wasn’t nearly as nervous going into these Games. I just treated it like any other swim meet and tried not to think about the fact that I was swimming in front of the entire world,” Chang said. The strategy paid off. At the games, Chang achieved many personal bests and placed high in her heats. Although she was just shy of qualifying for the semi-finals in each of her events, the 50 – and 100-meter freestyle, her times would have placed her in the semi-finals in her first games at Sydney.