Nadia Redza knows a little bit about pressure.
The University of Chicago soon-to-be junior swimmer has been competing on big stages way before her time in Myers-McLoraine Pool – or even the NCAA Division III Championships, where she's already a two-time All-American.
So, competing in this month's 30th Summer World University Games, in Naples, Italy, should be no sweat, right?
"My expectations for these games, is honestly just have fun," said Redza, who will represent her home country of Malaysia for the eighth time in major international competition with her two events, the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys.
Redza more than deserves a little fun. The economics major (she's specializing in business economics) hasn't stopped training since her second-straight NCAA Championships appearance in March, when most of her teammates take a break and concentrate on other interests.
"Training alone, as well as juggling it with second-year spring has been very challenging," she noted, referring to her daily training sessions with UChicago Head Coach Jason Weber.
"What Nadia has done this offseason, as well as last offseason, is extremely difficult to do," Weber said of her additional training. "Even with a coach there most practices to guide and motivate her, you cannot underestimate how impactful having a team around you can be. Nadia doesn't have her teammates there to push her, motivate her, and support her through tough sets.
"She's showing up every day with the same drive and determination as the day before and you have to have a high level of intrinsic motivation to train alone for months and maintain such a high level of performance. There are very few people on our team that would be able to do what she's doing day in and out, alone."
Seeing a few of her teammates competing on their own – just to stay in swimming shape and improve – in the offseason has helped her stay motivated, though she also credits her swimming "type" as proving extremely helpful.
"I'm also the type of swimmer that I can easily train by myself – I just try to focus on what I need to concentrate on during a certain set or interval, because that what helps me. I know a lot of swimmers are different, but that's what helps me, so it's definitely easier to train alone sometimes," she added.
The action in Naples kicks off with the Opening Ceremonies on July 3. Redza will compete in her prelim events on the 4th (400) and 6th (200), in a highly competitive field that likely includes swimmers training for the upcoming FINA World Championships.
A member of the Malaysia national team since she was 13, Redza – who grew up with her family in Kuala Lumpur – said despite the stiff competition, her experience in international events has her used to any pressure she might feel.
"I learned how to deal with pressure at a very young age," she said. "But it's a very rewarding experience. It's so nice to meet the world-class swimmers and having an awesome reason to travel to all of these cool places."
She's been successful, too.
Redza served as a co-captain for her squad at last fall's Malaysia Games 2018 and won gold in all three events she entered. Other notable international competitions she's had a chance to compete include the Commonwealth Games, FINA World Junior Championships, Commonwealth Youth Games, Asian Youth Games, Southeast Asian Games, Islamic Solidarity Games and the FINA World Cup.
The first of her family to study abroad in the U.S., Redza said one of the reasons she chose the University of Chicago, however, was the ability to be part of a true team atmosphere.
"Swimming internationally is much more individual based – people are focusing on making cuts and improving in their own events, while the NCAAs is more about celebrating achievements and triumphs as a team," Redza said.
By the way, both teams had their best-ever finishes at the 2019 NCAA Championships this past March.
"At the NCAAs, I was just as happy about my own races as I was about my teammates' and celebrated every teammate's success – not just my own. This is what I think the main difference is (between competing internationally) and one of the main reasons why I came to UChicago and the U.S. to study."
Don't worry, Redza does get to take a break, at least from the pool.
After the games, she plans to return home to Kuala Lumpur and will take an internship – she's still ironing out the details where – in a consulting firm.
And the future looks bright from there.
"The World University Games is one of the most selective and competitive international competitions behind World Championship and the Olympics, so it's very exciting for Nadia to be able to represent her country and the University of Chicago at this competition," Weber said. "Having the experience of competing at a meet with this level of competition will only serve to give her more confidence when she competes against the top D3 swimmers and at UAA and NCAA Championships."
2019 Summer World Universiade
WHEN: July 3-13
WHERE: Naples, Italy
WHO: Nadia Redza, a rising UChicago junior for the Maroons swimming team, will compete for Team Malaysia in two events – the 200- & 300-meter IM
FUN FACT: The games will mark Redza's eighth major international competition with Team Malaysia