Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Claudia Lau of the University of Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines are one of the teams in the Big 10 who have made very solid investments with overseas recruiting over the years, and with the current batch of seniors, Claudia Lau from Hong Kong, China may be one of the best examples of a highly valuable foreign import.

Lau has significiant international experience under her belt both before ever stepping on deck with the Wolverines and during her collegiate career, with the 2009 FINA World Championships, 2011 FINA World Championships, and the 2013 World University Games ranking among some of the most prestigious events that she has participated in.

A member of Hong Kong’s national team, Lau has represented her country admirably over the years. She recorded finishes of 30th in the 200 back (2:15.68), 46th in the 100 back (1:03.51), and 60th in the 50 back (30.26) at the 2009 FINA World Championships. At the 2011 iteration of the Championships, Lau would take 29th in the 200 back (2:15.09), 27th in the 100 back (1:02.45), and 40th in the 50 back (29.79). Notably, she was also a member of the national record-setting 4×100 SCM Free relay from the 2010 Asian Indoor Games, with the record standing at a 3:42.13 (Lau’s split was a 56.11 on the third leg).

Lau has had a successful career with the Wolverines as well. As a freshman, Lau scored points at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in the 100 yard backstroke with her 16th placed effort of 56.36 (she was a 54.96 in prelims). She also finished 17th in the 200 back (1:58.06) and 52nd in the 200 IM (2:06.88) while also providing the lead-off leg on the Wolverines’ 4×100 Medley Relay (55.10 split for Lau, 3:38.39, 7th). Individually she was the third fastest Wolverine in the 100 back and 2nd fastest in the 200 back.

During her sophomore year, Lau turned in another set of respectable results in her three events at the conference championships. In the 100 back, Lau finished 22nd in prelims of the 100 back (55.20, scratched finals), 24th in the 200 back (1:59.54 with a 1:58.08 in prelims), and 54th in the 50 free with a 23.81.  As a junior, Lau competed in the same three events as the previous year with finishes of 23rd in the 100 back (55.49), 14th in the 200 back (1:57.94, 1:57.13 in prelims), and 60th in the 50 free (23.79).

What makes Claudia’s potential in her last conference meet with the Wolverines so exciting is how fast she has already been this season. At the 2014 Winter National Championships, Lau swam a 54.53 as the lead-off leg on Michigan’s B 4×100 medley relay, a new personal best that helped power the foursome to a 10th place finish. She also swam a personal best in the 200 back with a 1:56.09 in prelims before taking 13th in finals with a 1:56.10. These early season successes are a great sign for the senior entering her final championships season with the Wolverines, and it is worthwhile to mention that her 200 time would have taken 6th at last year’s Big Ten Championships.

Outside of the pool, Claudia also has accumulated a number of Academic awards along the way. She is a two-time CSCAA Scholar All-America Honorable Mention (2012-13) and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree (2013,2014).

All in all, the Wolverines have a lot of exciting talent to watch out for in Columbus, and Claudia Lau may be one of those swimmers capable of breaking out and snagging a surprise A final spot or two. The Wolverines finished 5th at last year’s Championships, but they were just 13 points behind their rival, Ohio State, and a swimmer like Claudia is more than able to provide the spark necessary to close that gap this year.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
100 Back: 54.53/1:02.09
200 Back: 1:56.09/2:14.23
100 Free: 51.46/58.53
200 IM: 2:06.21 (SCY)

School Major/Degree: Ross School of Business, Bachelor of BusinessAdministration
Favorite Event: 4×100 Medley Relay
Hidden Talent: Rap in Cantonese
Favorite Movie: Inception
Role Model Growing Up: My mother
Favorite Food: Chocolate

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

I started swimming at the age of six when I got asthma. The doctor recommended it to strengthen my respiratory system. I have loved it ever since.

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why?

This is a hard one, I have a lot of fond memories in the past years. I would say winning my last dual meet in Cahnam Natatorium against “that school down south” (Ohio State). There was so much momentum going on in the meet. I didn’t win any individual events, but going 1-2-3 in the 100 Back and 1-2-3-4 in the 200 Back with my teammates was the best feeling ever.

What is your favorite international swimming memory and why?

Competing at the 2013 World University Games was my favorite. That’s the only competition I got to represent the two teams I love the most, Michigan and Hong Kong, at the same time. I had so much fun swimming and seeing fellow Wolverine, Marni Oldershaw, competing for Canada as well. I look forward to see more and more Wolverines in the international swimming stage.

You are a member of the Hong Kong National Team, and have represented your country at major international meets such as the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia and the 2009 World Championships in Rome, Italy. How has your international experience helped you since you have transitioned into a collegiate environment?

The international meets really expanded my horizons as a swimmer. I am fortunate to see different swimming techniques at such high level. It helped me to keep an open mind in training transitioning into the collegiate environment. In addition, these opportunities to travel in high school prepare me to adapt the busy college student-athlete schedule.

At the 2014 AT&T Winter National Championships, you set new personal bests in both the 100 and 200 yard backstrokes en route to contributing to a 10th place finish in the 4×100 Medley Relay and a 13th place individually in the 200 back. How do you think your mid-season success has set the stage for your final collegiate conference meet?

The swims at Winter Nationals helped me build up my confidence in scoring for Michigan in my final Big Ten Championships. It was also a reminder of how lucky I am to have such a supportive group of girls to train and compete with as I go into this last Big Tens with them.

What/who do you think has been the single most important catalyst to your swimming career?

“Being comfortable with being uncomfortable” has been the single most important catalyst to my swimming career. Throughout my swimming career, I encountered numerous uncomfortable situations. Whether it was a tough set or struggle in learning new techniques, knowing that it’s okay — and changes are good — helped me improve as a person.

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

I will continue to train at Michigan with Club Wolverine as a post-graduate. My goal is to represent Hong Kong in the 2016 Rio Olympics. We have a great group of girls and guys here in Ann Arbor and they all know “It’s not every four years, It’s every day.”

What should we look forward to from Michigan as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

We’ve grown a lot as a team this year and we aim to move forward in team rankings by having as many swimmers/divers score in this year’s Big Ten Championships. You will see Michigan Wolverines cheering at the top of our voices and swimming/diving our hearts out for Michigan.

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Absolutely incredible young lady and leader of this Michigan Team. So excited to see her race at Big Tens… This will be her best year yet!


Amazing young woman!

About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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