Williamson excels, ND-style
Mary Green | Wednesday, January 22, 2014
John Williamson is what Irish coach Tim Welsh calls “a great Notre Dame story.”
“If you look at Notre Dame, we’re about faith; we’re about family; we’re about excellence; we’re about helping other people; we’re about achievement,” Welsh said. “He’s done all those things.”
But there’s more to the junior than his 13th-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly at last year’s NCAA championships and his All-American qualification in that event.
For starters, he is quite the jokester.
“I know way too many corny jokes for my own good,” Williamson said. “What happened when the cow tried to jump over the barbed-wired fence? It caused ‘udder’ destruction. That was terrible. I’m sorry I had to say that joke.”
Williamson even earned his nickname, “Rain Man,” because of his uniqueness outside the pool.
“It was actually originally given to me the summer before freshman year, and, in the weight room, they had these interns that were learning to become weight instructors,” he said. “They noticed, first, how awkward, eccentric and weird, in a general manner of speaking, I was around weights in general and people even more generally. And they also noticed I have an unnaturally gifted ability to sweat, so they decided those two things combined made for the perfect setup for the nickname.
“It just stuck, and I’ve always sort of liked it. I’ll accept it most graciously. It’s all in good fun, and it’s all a part of being on the team.”
“Rain Man” has certainly helped his team since his arrival on campus almost three years ago and has only become faster with each season.
“He’s done a lot of improving here at Notre Dame, so he went from being pretty good to being an NCAA qualifier last year,” Welsh said. “He keeps getting better, and he does it the right way. He’s disciplined, conscientious, hardworking and thorough. … He wants to be challenged, and he wants to do his best.”
Williamson said no achievement was better than reaping the results of his hard work with his performance at the NCAA meet in Indianapolis last year.
“Oh, man, it was great,” he said of his 13th-place finish. “I had it in my goals to make NCAAs and get into the top 16 and have an All-American title, but you set these goals, and you have your dreams and your expectations, and you kind of obsess yourself over them, and then reality comes and pushes those dreams out of the way and the work that goes with it. It’s hard to put words to it, because it’s so entrenched in an emotional feeling you can’t really describe, but the best I can do is say it’s incredible and it’s great.”
Away from the pool deck, Williamson said he concentrates mainly on his studies as a major in civil engineering, a field he hopes to enter after graduation.
“I’ve always had a certain infatuation with just creating,” he said. “The principles that go behind civil engineering have always interested me, with learning about them and understanding them and finding ways to work with them. It always sort of sat with me as something that would be fun to do and something I’d like.”
Welsh said Williamson’s discipline in his school work is the same he has seen drive him to success in the pool.
“He has earned and learned and grown here as an athlete, as a student and as a person, and his achievement has gone straight up,” Welsh said. “And he’s not done yet — there’s a lot of improvement left in him, and he’s excited to see it happen.”
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