Final Five

Anton Ipsen, Olympic swimmer, North Carolina State UniversityWith Anton Ipsen, Olympic swimmer, North Carolina State University

Anton Ipsen is an Olympic swimmer from Birkerod, Denmark. The distance specialist on the North Carolina State University swim team has earned All-America honors, was ACC Freshman of the Year and became one of five N.C. State swimmers at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games during his sophomore year. In Rio, he finished 18th in the 1,500-meter freestyle for Denmark and finished 20th in the 400-meter freestyle. Ipsen maintains a 4.0 GPA in pursuit of an industrial engineering degree at the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

What drew you to industrial engineering?

The choice of industrial engineering came very naturally to me. As an athlete, your entire life revolves around optimizing every single, minute detail, always thinking of ways to improve or innovate yourself to become incrementally better every day. There is a definite optimization awareness overlap in IE and swimming. Additionally, my strong background in mathematics and physics only made the IE choice clearer. After being accepted into the IE program at N.C. State, I haven't looked back.

You were named Danish swimmer of the year in 2016 and have received many accolades as an athlete. How does your IE background tie in with swimming?

My IE background has helped me to become well-rounded and constantly strive to do better every day. We as industrial engineers know the biggest improvements and successes come from the smallest details and from working resourcefully in every aspect of life.

How do you apply industrial engineering concepts to your swimming practice?

I would more so say I apply my mentality from swimming to my academics, and that empowers my studies. Dedication, motivation and drive are key to success in life. As an athlete, you deal with being goal driven. Even more so, you deal with adversity and how to overcome challenges. Knowing how to push yourself to do things you normally wouldn't be keen on doing has powered my IE process-oriented thinking.

You were named Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2017 and maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA. What kind of strategies do you use to maintain such high grades?

It has always been imperative for me to do my best in the classroom as well as in swimming. Even though I have managed to balance the two different worlds well thus far, it has never been a distinct goal to be perfect. However, it has been my mentality to put my best, honest efforts into understanding the material and not just finding ways to master the exams. It has, in a way, been about the learning process itself. That mentality fits very well with IE, and it could be one of the key aspects of maintaining my GPA over the past three years. If I were to pursue a more academicfocused lifestyle, I would consider pursuing a graduate degree in operations research, data analytics or a similar field here at N.C. State.

What advice could you give other young athletes who are studying industrial engineering and participating in competitive sports?

My biggest advice to young athletes who want to pursue this kind of dual career in elite-level sports and academia is to always be process oriented. Today, we often have this notion that our performance is only judged by our direct results. For instance, I often overhear students in my classes say that all they want out of the class is an A. For me, that is completely the wrong mentality to have in life and can create a lot of stress, especially for young student-athletes. The result is not always the most important. Instead, we should try to reflect more upon the process and understand how we work, learn and study best.

– Interview by Cassandra Johnson