December 15, 2023
By Ashley Ritchie

To the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering community, Andrei G. Fedorov is a professor and the associate chair for graduate studies. But outside of the lab and classroom, he is a swimmer. In a recent Q&A, he shares his passion for the pool, giving us details on why he swims, his favorite swimming stroke, how the sport has benefitted his health, and more.

Why do you swim?

Swimming is a demanding exercise for both body and mind and an anchoring experience that I start with every single day (except some weekends). It makes me begin each day on the right foot and energized, irrespective of any challenges, physical or mental, I may be facing. It makes me feel alive. 

How did you get into the sport?

I've been into athletics since early childhood, pursuing an intense training exercise routine (four to six hours daily) during my K-12 years at a specialized athletic achievement-focused school in the Soviet Union. My focus was on track and field, specifically high jumping. The years of intense exercise took a toll on my joints, which forced me to turn to a gentler (on joints), but equally demanding activity. Swimming is a perfect sport in this respect, and it can be practiced throughout one’s life. 

Do you take part in recreational swimming, competitive, or both?

I am a recreational swimmer but am also a competitive swimmer (against myself). I continue to push myself not to slow down and to become even faster as I get older. It creates an interesting challenge for me to find a new resource for faster swimming through improved technique and mental preparation. I am also focusing on long-distance endurance swimming for which the mental state is critical.

How often do you swim and where?

I swim every day except weekends at Georgia Tech's Campus Recreation Center (CRC) pools. You will find me every morning at 6 a.m. in the same "Fedorov's lane" of the pool, and I much prefer the long-course, 50-meter competition pool (where the water is cooler and deeper) to the recreational pool. The swim guards know and expect me every morning, as well as my swim buddies (a small group of Georgia Tech faculty, students, and alumni) and the swim team coaches I share the pool with. When I travel, I try to find a pool wherever I happen to be and try to hit the water at 6 a.m. sharp. I've done this routine without interruptions since I started at Tech almost 24 years ago.

Is swimming an escape or a safe space for you?

It is neither. Swimming is an opportunity to compete against myself, invigorate myself, think about difficult matters and resolve confusions without "noise," find peace of mind, and get in the “state of flow.”

How has swimming benefitted your health? 

Swimming really is a body-and-mind exercise all at the same time, which makes one feel alive, positive, and hopeful. 

Do you have a favorite swimming stroke?

I swim freestyle for speed and long distances with no stops. I do 2,500 meters every morning trying to maintain a speed of 46-48 seconds per 50 meters or better. Some days this is easier than other days, but it brings so much joy to me regardless.