Transitioning to a new athletic environment from another in which one has been successful can be unsettling for some, but the UofA has provided the ideal setting to meet two European swimmers’ needs.
Junior Adela Vavrinova and graduate student Emily Barclay are 2020 transfers to the Arkansas swim and dive program. Vavrinova is from Pardubice, Czech Republic, and Barclay hails from Bolton, England.
Vavrinova has been a member of the Czech Republic national team since she began competing for the junior team at 15. She swam for the East Carolina Pirates for a year, during which time she broke three freshman records. However, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, ECU disbanded the men’s and women’s swim and dive programs as part of budget cuts in May 2020.
Vavrinova considered going back to her home country, but she chose the UofA after officials offered her a scholarship, she said.
“I was deciding if I wanted to stay in the U.S. and continue with swimming and academics or if I wanted to go back,” Vavrinova said. “So I was looking for other schools or programs in the U.S., and I turned to Arkansas because they offered me what I was looking for.”
Barclay previously attended Loughborough University in Loughborough, England. She won silver in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2019 British Swimming Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Barclay is part of the British national team and competed in the World University Games, the second-most funded global sporting event after the Olympics, in 2019.
Barclay had an incredible experience competing for Great Britain in the Games, she said.
“It was definitely an honor to compete for (Britain),” Barclay said. “It was my first and only time I’ve competed for them. I really like thriving under pressure. Like every time I swam, I did the exact same time...Having the crowd there and having the (Britain) coaches there and other athletes around you definitely spurred you to go above and beyond what you thought you were capable of.”
Being a good swimmer requires a strong mindset in addition to athleticism and practice, Barclay said.
“You have to have a professional mindset and an elite athlete mindset,” Barclay said. “You find a right balance with the mental side of it. You need to have focus, drive, those kinds of things.”
Transitioning to a new environment can be difficult, Vavrinova said, let alone in an entirely different continent. The biggest difference between the Czech Republic and the U.S. is that there are no university sports in her home nation. European athletes who want to continue competing in sports after high school generally have to go professional and forfeit academics.
“You can do it somehow, but it’s really hard to combine good academics and swimming,” Vavrinova said. “So it was one of the reasons why I chose to come to the U.S., because here you can do both school and swimming at a high level.”
One of the Razorback swim and dive team’s collective goals is to have more athletes qualify for NCAA finals and perform well against Southeastern Conference competition, Barclay said.
“Last year, we had a bit of a rocky road with half the group being negative and the other half being positive,” Barclay said. “This year we’ve got a really good, positive group. I can’t say anything negative about our group this year.”
The Razorbacks’ next swim and dive meet is the Tennessee Invite in Knoxville, Tennessee, with events all day Nov. 18-20.