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Kelley grad earns a berth in the Rio Olympics

July 19, 2016

Lexi Laird has finished her IUPUI swim career, but has moved to an Olympic stage.

Lexi Laird will be part of the Seychelles swimming team this August at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Kelley Indianapolis graduate has family ties from that island nation off the coast of Africa. | PHOTO COURTESY OF KELLEY SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

When the opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games dazzle a world audience Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, IUPUI will in the midst it all, represented by Kelley Indianapolis School of Business graduate Alexus "Lexi" Laird.

Laird is a former Jaguars swimming and diving team captain who will compete for Seychelles in the 100-meter backstroke. She is a native Hoosier, but as she has dual citizenship in the United States and the Seychelles, a country of islands located off of the east coast of Africa, she will compete for that team.

She is eligible to swim for the Seychelles because her late mother was a native Seychellois, and Laird still has family there. But while competing under that flag, Laird -- who graduated in December 2015 with double majors in accounting and finance -- will at least unofficially carry the traditions of the Jaguars into the Summer Games. Laird and the school are coordinating plans for her to send photos from Rio to Kelley's social media accounts after the Olympics.

"I learned so much during my time at IUPUI, and it helped me get to a point where I could compete internationally," Laird said. "When I got to campus, I knew I wanted to swim, but to be honest, I hadn't really applied myself as much as I could have."

The friendships she formed on the swimming and diving team and in Kelley Indianapolis "gave me direction and challenged me, and that's made a big difference in my life," she said.

She finished her IUPUI career with a host of school records and honors in the water and excelled in the classroom as well, earning Top 100 Scholars recognition in 2014 and 2015.

After graduating, Laird began pursuing her dream of competing for her mother's homeland, a dream she said "brought me closer to her" even though her mother died when Laird was a child. The story is part of a Kelley Indianapolis feature about Laird's journey.

Laird's trip to Rio de Janeiro also was included in a WTHR Channel 13 feature on the Olympics.

IUPUI swimming and diving coach Matt Bos encouraged her international efforts. "It's been fun to watch Lexi grow and change," Bos said. "She worked her way up to this, and to see her realize that she could take this further was neat to see."

To prepare for the 2016 Games, Laird joined the Carmel Swim Club to practice and hone her skills. Laird leaves for Rio July 30 and will stay in Brazil throughout the Games. She will be accompanied by her Carmel coach.

"I'm excited to be part of both the opening and closing ceremonies," Laird said. "I never expected anything like this, but I'm going to do my best."

Her best has included gold-medal performances for Seychelles in international events like the Indian Ocean Games, and she achieved her dream in the most recent world championships when she posted a time that reached the Olympic qualifying time in her event. By qualifying, she also created an opportunity for Seychelles to send a male swimmer to the games.

"To be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to make it," Laird said with a chuckle. "But then I looked up and saw my time" and realized it meant a place in the most elite athletic competition in the world: the Olympic Games. "It doesn't get any better than this," she said.

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