Poolside with Julien Vialette

  • By Jonathan Harkey
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  • December 11, 2013 05:12 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - While most student-athletes have trouble adjusting to balancing their studies and practice schedule, a select few also have to undertake being immersed in a whole new culture and atmosphere. One of those student-athletes who answered that challenge is WVU junior swimmer Julien Vialette.
 Julien Vialette
A native of Frejus, France, Vialette was a member of the French U19 National Team, a four-time French National Group Champion and a Gold medalist in the Mediterranean Cup. His performance attracted the attention of many universities, including West Virginia.
“I was contacted by (assistant coach) Kyle (Gallo). He offered me a scholarship and gave me all of the options I have and why I should go to WVU,” said Vialette. “I had a lot of opportunities, I didn’t only have WVU. I chose WVU because of many factors, I looked up the school online and I liked the opportunity I had here.”
Vialette decided to make the nearly 4,300 mile journey to Morgantown and join the Mountaineers. Although he was used to the schedule demands of a student-athlete, he seemed to have underestimated the language barrier when coming to the United States.
“I thought I spoke English well, but I guess I wasn’t good enough at first. I didn’t have too many difficulties understanding people, but to speak English was hard for me,” Vialette said. ”Communicating with people was difficult, and my classes were tough because of this language barrier. The work itself was not hard, but understanding directions was.”
After some struggles with adapting to a new first language, it did not take Vialette too long to become acclimated to speaking English.
“I took me about five months to get past a lot of the language barrier, but after that I was confident with speaking to people, and I enjoy it because I love talking to people,” said Vialette. “It was frustrating because I could not do it the first two or three months, but now it is a lot better.”
Not only was it difficult understanding instructions in the classroom, but getting acclimated to a language barrier inside the pool was also difficult.
“(The language barrier) was very similar in practice and meets as well. When Vic (Riggs) gives you a set to do and you don’t understand it, it can get frustrating. You have to look around and see what everyone else was doing,” the business administration major said. ”I know the words but understanding Vic was difficult at first, but not anymore.”
With a year-and-a-half under his belt of being accustomed to communicating in English, as well as succeeding in the classroom and being named to both the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll and Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, Vialette feels that he and the men’s team has a great opportunity this season.
“The seniors help out a lot on the team, and this year we realized that we had the potential to be great. We know how to be great and we’ve applied that every day,” said Vialette. “The ambience and atmosphere is better this year. People are cheering for one another so much more during a swim. That makes you want to swim, it makes you want to practice and it makes you want to be faster.”
This year’s upcoming spring slate has the teams facing off against Pitt at home in the Backyard Brawl, before traveling to Big 12 foe TCU, and finishing their regular season at Ohio State. Vialette is confident that the team will do well when it comes time to compete.
“Last year was a bit of a struggle against those teams. We didn’t race against Ohio State, but TCU and Pitt was a struggle,” said Vialette. “This year we want some revenge against those teams. I feel that we are going to do well at this meets compared to last year, and I’m confident we are going to win.”
When it comes time for the Big 12 Championships and the possibility of competing at the NCAAs, Vialette is focused on not only improving his top finishes from last season (fourth in 50 and 100 free, seventh in 200 free) but also posting top splits in the men’s relays.
“Last year was good for me and some of the other swimmers, but I feel that we have different expectations this year,” said Vialette. “Last year’s goal was to compete well at the Big 12, while this year’s goal is to compete well at the NCAA Championships. We are focused on higher standards. Always getting better, swimming faster and really having no limits is our mentality. One race can be your greatest ever and you can go faster than you could’ve imagined.”
Vialette not only has big plans for himself inside the pool, but in the academic arena as well midway through his junior year.
“I’m thinking of graduating this summer and entering the MBA program here. I want to do both the MBA and swim here next year, which would be the first time we had someone do both,” Vialette said. “I have to take the GMAT which is difficult, especially for international students.” 
Vialette feels that even though he has high future aspirations, finishing the current season strong is his main focus.
“I don’t want to think too much about next year,” said Vialette. “I want my focus to be on this year, swimming at the Big 12s, and hopefully swimming at the NCAAs.”

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