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Cornell Swimmer Makes History

Key Points
  • Cornell senior Ilya Evdokimov won both the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke at the Ivy League Championships last week
  • He plans to keep swimming until the 2020 Olympic trials
When Cornell swimmer Ilya Evdokimov stepped onto the block February 24, there was a different air in the building. He wasn’t nervous, he’d been to the Ivy League Championships before. But when the gun sounded, only four lengths of the pool separated him from history.
He had a chance to win the 200-meter breaststroke for the fourth time in as many years. Less than two minutes later, that would become a reality. When he touched the wall at 1:52.28, he shattered pool, school and meet records.
It was clear who was the best, as Evdokimov finished three seconds ahead of runner-up Jonathan Rutter of Yale. Reflecting on it, he says there wasn’t much going on in his head at the time.
“It’s all just a blur,” Evdokimov says. “I try to make sure I’m doing everything right, thinking about my strokes and my turns and everything like that. But by the time I notice I’m thinking about it the race is already done.”
If it wasn’t impressive to do it once, he did it twice. He was in the same situation just one day before in the 100-meter breaststroke. With a finish of 51.85, he set himself up to win the “breaststroke double” once again.
Eight times he’s entered an event at the Ivy League Championships, and eight times he’s come out a winner, an unblemished college career. With his two victories, he became only the fourth swimmer in Ivy League history to win two different events in four straight years. 
Ilya Evdokimov waves to the crowd after winning both of his events
Evdokimov on the podium after winning the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke. Photo Courtesy: Cornell Athletics

The Race to the Top

Swimming wasn’t always a part of Evdokimov life. He grew up in Russia until he was 11 before he moved to Florida. During the transition to the U.S., he gave up swimming to adapt to his new surroundings
“They’re very different cultures,” Evdokimov said. “It was a little bit hard to adjust to school at first because I wasn’t at the level of English that I wanted to be at. After a couple months it got easier.”
It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school that he got back into the pool. By the time he was a junior, he made the decision he wanted to pursue swimming in college.
At first, he said, it was him reaching out to colleges, but after drastically lowering his times senior year, the recruiters started coming to him. Then Cornell came knocking
“I considered a couple schools pretty seriously but then I thought about the academic, athletic balance. In the end I came here [Cornell] because it was a good fit,” Evdo
kimov said. “I liked the team atmosphere and I thought under Cornell’s coaching and training with everyone here that I would be able to keep improving.”
The rest, they say, is history.
Evdokimov jumps off the starting block into the pool for the start of the 200-meter breaststroke
Evdokimov diving off the block for the 200-meter breaststroke. Photo Courtesy: Cornell Athletics

The Laps Ahead

The name Ilya Evdokimov’s will be etched into Ivy League history. Even if someone eventually breaks his records, he’ll still be the first Cornellian to ever win multiple events four years in a row.
He’ll also be the first Cornell swimmer to finish the 100-meter breaststroke in under 52 seconds. However, he says he doesn’t want to be remembered for how fast he was.
“When people see my name and don’t know me, I hope they appreciate my name on the record boards. But I want people to think more about who am as a person than what my times were.”
When he graduates in May with a degree in neurobiology, Evdokimov says he plans on going to graduate school. As for swimming, he says he plans to keep training until the Olympic trials. While he doesn’t know whether he’ll be at the 2020 games in Tokyo, he says he’ll never stop swimming.
“I just love this sport. That minute or two minutes that I’m swimming during championship meets really make up for all the hours of training that I have to put into it.”
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