Special Guest Interview: Stay hungry, stay foolish

***UPDATE: Congratulations, Alon, for being accepted to UM SPH!!***


Valentina Stackl


Stay hungry, stay foolish. –Steve Jobs (Alon’s favorite quote)

What am I doing at 5:30AM? I am most likely curled up in fetal position, snoozing for the next foreseeable future. What is Alon Mandel doing? Getting ready to jump in the pool. Alon is an Olympic swimmer who is part of the Michigan Varsity Men’s Swim Team. He also wants to study Environmental Health Science at SPH in the fall. I met up with him over lunch this week:

Alon started swimming when he was six. He followed in his older sisters’ footsteps who both loved to swim in their native Netanya, Israel. He won his first national championship when he was 10, in the age group for 11 year olds. His sister Maya came to Michigan when Alon was 12. When he visited her during her senior year it was love at first sight: he wanted to be a Wolverine too- especially after some of the girls on the women’s team beat him in the pool. He said that for the first time ever, he did not feel like a fish, he felt like plankton, and it was then that he knew that he wanted to come to UM to train. He wanted his picture, swim cap and the Israeli flag hung in the pool’s hall of fame, he wanted to train with the best of the best (including Michael Phelps).


When I asked Alon when he knew that he was good enough to be going to the Olympics, he said that he made a tag for his backpack that had the opening day of the Beijing Olympics carved on it- he made it in 2001, seven and a half years before the big day. 

Alon came to the University of Michigan to study engineering. But, he had to continue competing to qualify for the Israeli Olympic team. I can’t imagine studying for exams, and traveling back to Israel (and other countries) to compete. He made the team one month before the Olympics. 

August 11 was a Monday. Alon was in lane 8. On that day, he set the new Israeli record for the 200 fly. When I asked Alon about the opening ceremony of the Olympics, he said it was more exciting to walk the field of the big house. He’s a Wolverine through and through!

Alon started taking classes at SPH in environmental health science as an undergrad. He is especially interested in environmental chemistry. Alon found what he loved and is eager to learn more. He told me that there are so many things he still wants to know, so many questions he still has. By the end of the semester, Alon will already have three EHS classes under his belt- and he isn’t even a student at SPH yet!

I asked him how swimming has influenced his studies. He said that swimming makes you a person who can plan for the future, who can multi task, and manage their time. No wonder, the team has 10 practices per week and competitions almost every other weekend. 

Alon left me with a wonderful line, that actually gave me a more positive attitude about finishing at SPH. He said, Graduate School is mostly about your soul instead of the degree you get. Maybe that’s true. If we choose to do what makes us happy we will do it well. Alon’s plans for the future are getting his MS in EHS and then, London 2012. 

Alon got it right I think, set your goals high and then work, work hard as hell, to reach them.


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