ATLANTA (Feb. 22) – Traveling from Israel to Atlanta was no problem. Adjusting to collegiate swimming was no problem. He’s posted 17 wins this year. Adjusting to the culture was no problem. Its very similar to what he is used to.
Finding the right major, so far, is the only thing he is unsure about. Georgia Tech freshman swimmer Shilo Ayalon (Kfar Hanassi, Israel) has made impact and an easy adjustment into the Yellow Jacket swimming and diving program. Especially for someone who has not been involved to a team environment before this year.
“I didn’t come in with any expectations this year,” said Ayalon. “I just wanted to come in and do the best that I could do. I have not been a part of a team environment throughout an entire season nor am I used to being bonded to a group of teammates. It is pretty nice, though. It is great to be there for the team and then for the team to be there for you. I really like being a part of a team and working toward winning.”
Ayalon has a been a force for Tech as well this year. He leads the Jackets into the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship meet Thursday-Saturday at the Koury Natatorium in Chapel Hill, N.C., on the campus of the University of North Carolina.
He is the seventh seed in the 500 freestyle, where he holds the school record with a time of 4:31.78, and is the No. 8 seed in the 1,650 freestyle after posting a school record 15:57.4 in a home meet against NC State and Florida State during the regular season. Ayalon has also set a school record in the 1,000 freestyle with a time of 9:22.49 and is the ninth seed in the 400 individual medley in the ACC meet.
He started the season with a quick bang and never looked back. He helped the Jackets defeat Virginia Tech in the season-opening meet by winning the 500 freestyle and 200 freestyle out of the gate and he was also a key factor in winning decisions against Davidson, the College of Charleston and Louisville.
“You are never really sure of how freshmen are going to fare, but Shilo has met all expectations and more,” said head coach Seth Baron. “We have asked him to do a lot – swim 200 frees, 500 frees, 1,000 frees, 1,650 frees, 400 individual medleys and relays. He has responded to everything we have asked of him.”
Ayalon arrived at Tech through Baron’s contacts in Israel after he coached in international competitions there in 1993 and ’97. Baron worked with Olympic medal winner Yoav Bruck, one of the country’s all-time top sprinters who competed at Auburn before returning to Israel.
“Yoaf knew I was a strong academic student and could handle Georgia Tech,” said Ayalon. “So he introduced me to Coach Baron and we started communicating at first by the telephone and then through E-mail. Everybody in Israel respects Georgia Tech and it has been a perfect fit for me. It was a hard decision to leave my family though, I only made it two weeks before traveling here.”
Ayalon’s talent afforded him the opportunity to pursue an academic degree in America.
“Every male in Israel serves a three-year service in the military,” said Ayalon. “You are allowed to defer your draft if you are an olympic hopeful athlete, and I received a four-year extension to be able to compete towards swimming and gain an academic degree. I looked at Florida and Ohio State, but Georgia Tech weighed out as the top academic institution. It had a swimming program that is growing and would be a real challenge for me to help. I came here to be able to get experience, great coaching and earn a degree.”
Ayalon has made the transition into collegiate swimming and life in America and now just has to decide upon his career path.
“I not quite sure on my major yet, maybe computer science, computer engineering or physics,” said Ayalon. “I haven’t determined my career path yet but want to take a really hard look at it to make the right decision.”
With the decision to attend Georgia Tech, he has made a winning long-distance impact for the Rambling Wreck.