23 year old Elias Dammann, an academic senior on the UT men's swimming team, has big dreams to see the world and compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
With a solid season and SCC competition under his belt, this strikingly tall, bleach blonde Norwegian's second year at UT is gradually coming to a close. But more swimming awaits him still. This March, he is flying back to Norway to compete in his homeland's Nationals.
Training will no doubt be rigorous as he intends to sustain times that would qualify him for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which will serve as an ultimatum for his swimming career. "If I don't make it to Rio 2016, I'm going to stop," Dammann explains.
With the Olympics offering the highest degree of athletic competition, it is understandably Elias's top goal concerning his swimming career. Regardless of whether or not you'll see him in Rio three years from now, his accomplishments thus far already bear magnitude.
Having started swimming at 12 years old, he first engaged the water through triathlons and lifeguarding. Elias later applied for what he calls a top athlete high school in Norway, which jumpstarted his career as a competitive swimmer.
In Norway, school and athletic training are very much separated unlike the relationship between American academia and sports. After graduating high school, Dammann was able to focus solely on his athletic abilities and develop into a nationally accredited athlete.
Citing his proudest swimming achievement as placing 2nd in the Norwegian Nationals, Dammann is no stranger to prestigious competition, swimming numerous times at the national level.
A certain attraction to America, however, brought him over the Atlantic and eventually to the University of Tampa. Elias says he loves American culture for its "openness" which contrasts with the standoffish nature of general social interaction back home.
He notes that Florida weather isn't all that bad either. Originally admitted to Georgia Tech University, Dammann was an international talent waiting to be seized. Despite Georgia Tech being Division I, he was convinced by a friend to come to Tampa. The implications of the NCAA differentiations didn't appeal to this Norwegian native.
The decision seems to have paid off as Dammann reflects on his experience at UT.
"I feel like I've progressed here." While testifying to tough practices and advancing athletically, enjoying the freedoms of college life are certainly aspects of UT that Dammann is fond of. "In Norway I lived for swim; I ate for swim, I dreamed about swim. I was in bed by 8 o'clock; I had to eat a certain way. Everything I did was for swim."
Here, he enjoys a kind of looseness which presents a stark juxtaposition to the nature of swimming in Norway. This looseness includes being able to eat at one's one discretion, going out, and having a bit of fun.
Such a relaxed tone is also reflected in Dammann's larger aspiration to see the world and truly enjoy it, claiming that if not for swim, he'd most likely "be a bum" and spend his time travelling.
Remarkably, he expresses desire to see more of the world despite having already been to over 30 countries and 30 American states. While some of this travelling may be accredited to swimming, Dammann's family has largely accommodated his global expeditions. He explains that his mother took him out of school in for a year while in Norway to travel.
Among his favorite destinations are Australia for its nature and wildlife, Samoa with the cultural fascination of its indigenous people and untouched land, and Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean northeast of Madagascar, which Elias describes as "paradise."
Within the U.S. he's a big fan of Washington D.C. and San Francisco, noting his love of body boarding as well as his dream of learning to surf. This inclination to adventure originated in Norway where Dammann says he loves to recreationally cross country ski.
Although Dammann intends to remain in Tampa upon graduation in search of a job in the fields of economics and business, he will most likely return to Norway for the long run. His interest in economics gives him the savvy to recognize Norway's superior range of opportunity amongst a struggling global economy.
More importantly, the future holds the possibilities of an open world for this distinguished swimmer. Further adventure surely waits Elias Dammann as he graduates from UT with an economics degree, interest in corporate finance, a focus toward the 2016 Olympics, his carefree nature, and an enduring fascination with the world.
Written by Anya Proctor