Freshman swimmer Marcus Mak brings childhood passion to NCAA stage

An initiation to competition and classes for the new Red Leaf

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Photo of Marcus Mak in the pool during competition.
PHOTO: Garrett James / SFU Athletics

By: Simran Sarai, Sports Writer

For Marcus Mak, swimming is second nature. But this year offers a unique challenge for the freshman from Victoria, BC: adjusting to life in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Mak looked back at his natural gravitation to swimming, path to SFU, and how he rewinds outside of the pool in an interview with The Peak. 

“Everything started with swim lessons,” said Mak about his journey to becoming an NCAA athlete. “I was fortunate enough [that] swimming was not a financial burden for my parents.”

Since joining his local swim club at 10-years-old, Mak has been no stranger to hard work, practicing six–eight times a week. He credited his sister — who is now a swim coach — to getting him into the sport. Mak’s younger brother, in grade 11, also swims competitively. 

Like most student-athletes, Mak was drawn to SFU as Canada’s sole NCAA school. “I think the combination of staying in Canada and swimming in the NCAA led me to pick SFU to continue my swimming career,” he shared.

As a freshman, Mak has jumped into the deep end of his studies — juggling a full, 12-credit course load while competing in a lengthy NCAA season that runs from October–March. He has complimented his academic pursuits with standout results in his first season as a Red Leaf. His latest accomplishment includes a win in the 200m backstroke at the Husky Invitational in December. In November, Mak also qualified for the NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships in the 200m individual medley during the Winter Collegiate Invitational. He previously competed at the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Natation Swimming World Cup in the 50m and 100m freestyle, the 100m and 200m backstroke, and the 200m individual medley races.

While taking to the pool comes naturally for Mak, adjusting to “the pace of classes” as a university student has been an “eye-opening” experience. Although competing requires student-athletes to be attentive with their class schedules, life on the road “travelling, training, and competing with teammates away from SFU” has been a unique and rewarding experience for Mak. When he’s not in the pool or the classroom, he likes to “spend downtime just relaxing, preferably with friends whether that’s in person or online.” 

Accepting the highs and lows of the university student experience usually involves a steep learning curve for most first-year students, athletics aside. But Mak takes it all in stride: “I just try to enjoy what I’m doing in the moment.”