What’s it like to be a Danish swimmer at N.C. State?

What’s it like to be a Danish swimmer at N.C. State?

Danish Olympic swimmers Anton Ipsen and Soren Dahl want to use their 2016 Rio experience to help the N.C. State swimming and diving team reach new heights.

Above, Soren Dahl (left) and Anton Ipsen take a selfie in Rio. Photo courtesy of Anton Ipsen.

Olympic swimmers Soren Dahl and Anton Ipsen compete in a largely individual sport, but both maintain a laser focus on the overall success of the N.C. State Swimming program.

The duo competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics for their home country of Denmark. Ipsen, a junior industrial engineering major, swam in the 400-meter freestyle and 1500-meter freestyle. Dahl, a senior political science and communications double major, swam in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

Coming off a historic season with the Wolfpack, both agree that the support of their team and coaches has been a key to their success.

“Most college coaches care about your ability to add to their successes, but our coaches care about each individual’s success,” Ipsen said. “We all have each other’s backs.”

Dahl, a team captain and a NCAA 400-meter freestyle relay champion, feels the team-oriented tradition at N.C. State has led them to become a top 10 NCAA program.

“We want to be better, and we seek higher goals all the time,” Dahl said. “There’s a really great team atmosphere where everyone feels respected and comfortable.”

Dahl celebrates at the 2016 NCAA Championship. Dahl and his teammates won the 400-meter relay, the first NCAA relay victory for the school. Photo by N.C. State Athletics.

Ipsen and Dahl have earned numerous honors in and out of the pool, but individual achievements are not their focus. Both Dahl and Ipsen listed team goals as their primary objectives for the season.

“The Olympics are in the past,” Dahl said. “We want to focus on the team.”

Ipsen believes that having three Olympians on the team proves that anything is possible for anybody in the program. He wants to use his Olympic experience as a means to contribute even more to the team.

“My ultimate goal is for the team to perform better, to take another step up the ladder, to stay hungry, and to stay motivated,” Ipsen said.

Ipsen (left) and Dahl (right) pose with N.C. State teammate and American Olympic swimmer Ryan Held. Photo courtesy of NC State Athletics.

Ipsen (left) and Dahl (right) pose with N.C. State teammate and American Olympic swimmer Ryan Held at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo courtesy of N.C. State Athletics.

Transitioning to the U.S.

Before coming to N.C. State, Ipsen and Dahl were on the Danish national team together. They had never heard of the school before they were recruited.

“I didn’t even know what the ‘N.C.’ in N.C. State stood for,” Dahl said. “I didn’t actually know what I was saying yes to, but I’m certainly glad I did.”

Neither swimmer had difficulty transitioning to the United States.

“I still feel like I’m on vacation,” Dahl said. “I get to meet new people, go to new places, and try new things all the time.”

However, adjusting to Southern culture was a bit harder.

Dahl said in Danish culture, people tend to be introverted and won’t talk to people they don’t know.

“When somebody just comes up and talks to you at a bus stop, it doesn’t mean that they’re weird or strange or anything; it just means that they’re Americans,” Dahl said with a laugh.  

Both swimmers think that they have some habits that their teammates find strange.

“I love licorice,” Ipsen said. “I try to give it to my roommates, but they can’t tolerate it. They spit it out two seconds after.”

Dahl thinks his Danish roots have made him more health conscious. He always eats a bowl of plain lettuce and spinach for dinner.

“I like it,” Dahl said. “Everybody thinks it’s super weird that I don’t put any dressing on it.”

Both athletes have difficulty explaining their athletic endeavors and accomplishments to friends in Denmark.

“In most parts of the world, you swim for yourself and not for a team,” Ipsen said. “I explain to them what college means to me and that it’s different here.”

Ipsen swims in the 2016 NCAA Championship. Photo by NC State Athletics.

Ipsen swims in the 2016 NCAA Championship. Photo by N.C. State Athletics.

Goals for the future

Currently, the pair is focused on the team, but Ipsen and Dahl have different plans for the future.

Ipsen wants to continue his swimming career for as long as it’s financially feasible. He hopes to qualify for an international final during his college career. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 have also crossed his mind.

“Swimming is so intense that if you’re not having fun it’s not even worth it,” Ipsen said. “I have to take it one year at a time to keep having fun and to stay motivated.”

Dahl wants to take a different path. He plans to end his career where he started — back in Denmark at the European Short Course Championships in December 2017.  He wants to stay in the U.S. to attend graduate school and has thought about working in diplomacy. Dahl hopes to continue his involvement with the N.C. State program and share his knowledge as a coach.

“It’s very important to me that the team does better than they have ever done before,” Dahl said.

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Megan Cain
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