Alabama swimmer Conner Oslin making big impact for Tide

There’s not much to him, really.

At first glance, you’ll notice a paper-thin chest, narrow hips and stringy arms and legs. He’s 160 pounds soaking wet and stands at an unassuming 5-feet, 11-inches — not the typical profile of a NCAA Championship-caliber swimmer.

But for University of Alabama sophomore Conner Oslin, size doesn’t matter. The taller and stronger Oslin’s big-time swimming opponents are, the harder they fall. Despite his inconspicuous physique, the fiery competitor’s productivity in the pool has turned some heads — or made them tilt slightly in disbelief.

“I really enjoy when we go to, let’s say, the SEC Championships and people are like, ‘Hey, who’s that kid? Where’s he coming from? I never knew who that kid was,’” Oslin said.

He’s gained recognition quickly in the approach to the NCAA Championships, a three-day event in Iowa City, Iowa, that starts today. He is competing for the second year in a row, and made a huge, successful splash for the Crimson Tide at the SEC Championships in February by winning the 100-yard backstroke (Alabama’s first win in that event since 1985) and leading the men’s 400-yard medley squad to a conference title.

Oslin came to Alabama from Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Ga., as the equivalent of a three-star football recruit, and more colleges wanted him for his 4.41 high school grade-point average than for his swimming. Alabama swimming and diving head coach Dennis Pursley said it was an understatement to say that Oslin has exceeded the program’s expectations for him. It never crossed Pursley’s mind when recruiting Oslin that by his sophomore year, he would set school records in the 100 backstroke and earn All-American honors in the 200-yard and 400-yard medleys.

“I’ve always been kind of like the smaller guy. It’s nothing new to me really,” Oslin said. “I always get doubted, and I always prove people wrong. … I don’t need anyone to expect me to be amazing. I know I can be amazing by myself.”

Oslin’s perceived weakness, ironically, serves as one of his biggest attributes. Assistant coach James Barber said Oslin’s slender body has less resistance in the water, allowing him to glide through the pool like a knife through warm butter and make his cuts on the walls quicker.

Also, Barber pushes Oslin’s buttons psychologically, adding fuel to his competitive fire. Oslin said he thrives in the role of the underdog, and gleans motivation from showing people that big things can come in small packages.

“James is always ragging on me and telling me people don’t respect me. … It’s pretty much true. I don’t doubt him. People really do not respect me, but you know, eventually they will,” he said. “I think one day, maybe when my swimming career is over and they look back and say, ‘Who’s that Connor Oslin kid?’ maybe they’ll respect me. Maybe.”

Originally published at on March 25, 2015.

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