BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – The City of Firsts is known for many things, but the Olympics is not one of them – until now. Lexi Laird, a 2011 Kokomo High School graduate and former record-breaking swimmer at IUPUI, announced she will be headed to Rio de Janeiro to take part in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil. And in a slight twist – she will not be representing the United States of America.
“I will be attending the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio representing the Seychelles,” said Laird. “I am honored to represent the Seychelles and thankful for the opportunity they have given me to further my swimming career. This is just the beginning.”
Laird, 22, is able to swim for the Seychelles National Team because of her family ancestry. Her mother, Angela Beier, was born and lived in the Seychelles for most of her life. After her mother moved to Germany and married a U.S. Air Force airman, Angela passed away when Lexi was 4 years-old, but that tie and her dual-citizenry allows her to swim for the island nation. With a population of 90,024, the Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean and consists of 115 islands approximately 932 miles east of mainland East Africa.
The 2015 IUPUI graduate participated in the Indian Ocean Island Games in August, held on Reunion Island, and swam away with a trio of gold medals. The former Wildkat took home top honors in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events. Her 50 time of :29.48 was a new Indian Ocean Island Games and Seychelles national record. She also grabbed a silver medal in the 50 free and a pair of bronze medals in the 100 and 200 free relays.
At the 2015 African Games in the Republic of the Congo last September, she took a bronze medal in the 50 back.
In early December, at the USA Swimming Winter National Championships at Federal Way, Washington, she reset her Seychelles national record with a time of 1:02.33 in the 100-yard backstroke.
Earlier this year, Laird also competed in the FINA World Swimming Championship in Doha, Qatar. Swimming with some of the world’s best swimmers, she placed in the top 40 in the 200-meter backstroke while setting Seychelles national records in four events and three relays.
“I have big dreams out of the pool as well. I put my heart into my Kelley studies and look forward to sitting for the CPA exam,” Laird told the Kelley Biz Blog
After being named a 2014 IUPUI Top 100 Outstanding Student, Laird is swimming for the prestigious Carmel Swim Club as she studies to take her Certified Public Accountant exam.
“I am so glad to have Carmel behind me and be a part of an amazing group of people,” said Laird. “I owe it to my teammates and the great coaches at Carmel pushing me daily.”
In the IUPUI pool, she was a multiple All-Summit League performer and holds three Jaguars individual records and four relay records: 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke, 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay. She is also second in the 100-yard freestyle. Laird was also the first IUPUI swimmer to earn a B-cut to qualify for an NCAA championship event.
Now graduated, she is preparing not only for her professional work career as a CPA, but also her opportunity to shine on the international swim stage.
“Thank you to my friends and family; you are all so supportive through this unique journey of mine,” said Laird, a 2015 CSCAA Scholar All-American honorable mention. “Like I said, though, this is just the beginning.”
While the Seychelles may be the smallest populated nation of any independent African state, it has a swimmer with high expectations. When August 2016 arrives, Kokomo eyes will be watching for Lexi Laird, one of its own participating in the Summer Olympics.