NCAA Swimmers Take Academics, Athletics Abroad
Two scholar athletes from Saint Louis University’s NCAA Division I swim team, Mary
First and Olivia Wanasek, continued their training this summer at Real Canoe N.C.,
one of Spain’s top training centers for competitive swimmers.
Unlike many NCAA Division I athletes who are unable to study abroad, Mary and Olivia met
both their athletic and academic commitments by taking advantage of the University’s
partnership with the club. Real Canoe N.C afforded them not only the continual skill
training that they require as a Division I athletes, but also fostered their understanding
of the Spanish language and culture.
“It was an adjustment to have to understand our workouts in Spanish, but all the swimmers
and coaches on the team are so friendly and helpful, which made it easier,” confessed
Mary, a junior who is majoring in neuroscience with a minor in Spanish. “It’s so fun
to go to practice and see that Real Canoe does the same drills and workouts as we
do in St. Louis.”
Olivia, a junior pursuing a degree in business with a minor in Spanish, admitted,
“I had no idea what to expect going to a swim team in a completely different country,
but after my first practice I realized that it is not too different from practicing
in the U.S. The exercises and sets are very similar to those of my practices in St.
Louis. The language barrier can be challenging at times, but it is the perfect way
for me to learn and improve my Spanish.”
Real Canoe N.C. was founded in 1930 and has since been recognized as the top Olympic
youth academy for water sports in Madrid. The facilities are located in the heart
of Madrid near Retiro Park. Of the seven swimming pools at the club, four are covered
year round and the other three are covered with a telescopic roof that easily caters
to both Madrid's summer and winter climates.
Mary remarked that she is grateful to SLU-Madrid’s athletic director César Rioja for
facilitating the collaboration with Real Canoe C. N. Wanasek added, “I am so happy
I was able to continue my training while not only improving my Spanish, but also being
completely immersed in the Spanish swimming culture and making a few friends along
The Athletic Department at SLU-Madrid strives to accommodate student athletes of all
levels who train while pursuing their studies. Interested students may contact César
Rioja directly at email@example.com.