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English Works: Olympian David Plummer

For bronze medalist swimmer, "English just made sense for me"
September 7, 2016

Alum David Plummer with President Eric Kaler, Athletic Director Mark Coyle, and Goldy

Alum David Plummer with President Eric Kaler, Athletic Director Mark Coyle, and Goldy
Alumnus David Plummer with President Eric Kaler, Athletic Director Mark Coyle, and Goldy

There it is, amid the music and sport faves listed on David Plummer's USA Swimming fan biography, his iconic English major response to "Ultimate Way to Relax?": With a good book on the couch. You may know Plummer as the 31-year-old who persevered to win an Olympic bronze medal in the 100m backstroke this summer, after missing out on the 2012 Games by 12-hundredths of a second. If you're a lucky member of the Wayzata High School swim team, you know Plummer as your (wildly inspiring) coach. At the University of Minnesota, Plummer was a 14-time All-American and still holds six Gophers records. Around the Department of English, though, Plummer is recognized first as an English alumnus (BA 2008), with, sure, a pretty good sideline in aquatic sports (kidding!). While Plummer has spent the last couple years training at the U Aquatic Center, he's now officially back on campus as a sports administration intern: "I'm working with the M Club," he notes, "as well as the HR and business departments." And he's attending football games with heavy metals on his neck. (The gold medal came from swimming qualifying heats for the victorious 4 x 100m medley relay team.) Plummer recently addressed his past and present at the U.

"What better way to understand
people than to study characters
in literature?" - David Plummer

What's it been like to receive such widespread acclaim after so many years of solitary grinding away in the pool?

It has been amazing to receive so much support from all the places I have been in my life. I think it speaks to the prominence of the Olympics. Our team is lucky to be able to represent our country, and it's something we take to heart. I'm proud to be a part of Team USA.

You're a native Oklahoman. Why did you choose to attend the Uand why major in English?

My older brother attended the U, and I followed in his footsteps. I chose English because I enjoyed it so much. I enjoy relating to people and understanding their motivations. What better way to understand people than to study characters in literature? English just made sense for me.

How do the skills learned in the study of literature support what you do?

I often lean on the skills I learned as an English student. As a coach it is important to be able to put together a cohesive plan for the season. Every year is a new team and a new story. As an athlete, being able to tell your own story is a big part of going after sponsorships.

What class do you most remember?

I took a creative writing class one summer. There were only seven people in the class, and we got to spend a big portion of class time critiquing each other's writing. I think I took a big step forward with my writing because of that class.

What with two young sons (and a wife who's a pediatrician), plus swimming, coaching, etc., do you get time to read anymore?

I read whenever I can, but with two little boys I don't get a lot of time. I just finished Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It is maybe the most important book I have read. To hear that a person was truly able to control his attitude in any situation within the context of WWII was powerful.