Master’s Student Finishes Hours Before Winning Swimming World Championship
Nic Fink now has three world championship gold medals in swimming, but his latest might have been the most momentous. The electrical and computer engineering master’s student at Georgia Tech has had a jam-packed schedule for the past year and a half.
Fink completed his coursework for his master’s degree not in Atlanta, but 9,688 miles away in Melbourne, Australia. He has trained on campus with the Georgia Tech swim team while maintaining his status as one of the fastest swimmers in the world. Fink says he actually turned in the last assignment he needed to complete his degree between the preliminary round and the final round of his gold medal-winning race.
His research focus has been on systems and controls, specifically digital signal processing.
The FINA World Championships were scheduled for Dec. 13 – 18, the same week as his classmates would have final exams and walk across the stage at Commencement.
“I knew that I had to plan ahead and get as much work done as possible before the competition started,” he said. His advisor, Mark Davenport, has helped him figure out how to meet all course requirements with his swimming and training schedule.
After leading the first heats, Fink connected to Wi-Fi and sent off his final project, then went out a couple of hours later to win the gold medal in the 100 breaststroke, beating out the reigning world champion from Italy and the reigning Olympic gold medalist from Great Britain.
“I had to wait for grades to confirm that I was actually finished, but I just kept swimming,” he said.
While Georgia Tech graduates were crossing the stage in Atlanta, Fink kept racking up world medals. He won silver in the 200-meter breaststroke, then a second gold in the 50-meter race.
He teamed up with fellow Americans to set a new world record in the 4X100 medley relay.
Now that he’s finished his master’s at Tech, Fink is looking to use his degree and find a position that will also allow him to keep training as one of the world’s fastest swimmers. “That balance has worked really well for me,” he said, adding that swimming offers stress relief from school and research has helped keep swimming from completely taking over his life.
He does admit he’s looking forward to late nights and weekends without homework.
Fink plans to train for the upcoming 2023 World Championships and has his eye on the next Olympic Games, to be held in 2024 in Paris.
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