Zeina Shanata

On The Clock With Zeina Shanata

Feb. 11, 2010

Senior swimmer Zeina Shanata had two career bests in last year’s BIG EAST Championships, and is looking forward to finishing even stronger this year. She competes in an array of freestyle events, including Fly and IM. Shanata sat down with UND.com to tell us a little more about herself.

How old were you when you started swimming?
I started swimming when I was 10, and I did not even learn how to swim without a life vest until I was nine-years old, which people find really weird.

What prompted you to pick up swimming?
I saw the 1996 Olympic Games, and I thought that the swimming was the coolest thing ever. I am from Gainesville, and the University of Florida is there. My mom contacted the club program there to see if they had anything for my age group there. I started right up after that.

When did you start to swim competitively?
I became fairly competitive when I was around 12 to 13. It was pretty fast.

Is anyone else in your family an athlete?
My little sister swims now, but I was the one to lead the way. She is 16 and swims at my old club team.

What made you decide to come to Notre Dame?
I took a lot of trips to different schools, and Notre Dame by far had the best balance of academics and athletics which was something I was really focused on. I am Catholic, so that it was Catholic was just perfect, and I loved the people here, and the girls on my trip.

What are you studying here?
I am a psychology major.

Who has influenced you most strongly to pursue your goals?
My greatest role models are probably my mom, and my dad, and my family in general. They are the reason that I do everything. My mom is a child protective investigator, so she deals with abused children, making sure they get out of the homes etc. My dad owns a big sports bar and grille at home, so he is always around Gator fans all the time, but he makes sure to put up Notre Dame memorabilia.

Do you have a memory of swimming from when you were younger that stands out?
I would say my best memory is the first national meet that I made. It was in 2002 or 2003. It was one of the coolest meets I have been to, and there were all these Olympians everywhere, and I was freaking out, because I was pretty young, so it was just the coolest thing.

Do you want to swim professionally after you leave?
I don’t think so, because swimming has been a huge part of my life for so long, and I am kind of ready to move on and try other things.

So what will you do after graduation?
I would really like to become a child psychiatrist, and work specifically with kids who have been involved with drug addiction or abuse. I had a really big internship this summer at the University of Florida. I worked with the child psychiatry department at the hospital there, and I sat in with patients from the ages of three to 18. I saw various psychological problems from things like autism to cases where they were sexually abused or addicted to whatever drug their parents were addicted to. It just inspired me to want to do this, because I felt if someone could reach out and help these kids, it could make such a difference. Most of the time all they wanted was just someone to talk to. I will be doing a two year pre-med program, and then I am going to go to medical school, and do my residency in psychiatry.

What do you miss from home?
Palm trees. I always freak out when I go home and see palm-trees and the beach, and my little dog. His name is Benz, like a Mercedes-Benz, and he is a little toy poodle and the cutest thing ever. I love him.

Is there anything you are looking forward to this year before you graduate?
I am just looking forward to ending my swimming career with a bang. I could not ask for a better team to end it with, so I am just enjoying the last little bit of collegiate athletics.

— ND —