Student from Germany excels on Whitefish Bay swim team

WHITEFISH BAY -- Whitefish Bay High School is one of many area schools that participates in a foreign exchange program called AFS, and every year, many of those students get their first experiences in organized sports. FOX6's Jen Lada caught up with a young man from Germany who's using his experience in the water to make it on the swim team!

Lennart Hansen has only been in Wisconsin since August. A foreign exchange student from Germany - it's safe to say Lennie was pretty clueless about the Dairy State! "First I thought 'crap,' about Wisconsin, because I didn't know it at all. I was kinda upset," Hansen said.

However, Hansen threw himself into his new home. The 16-year-old spent the fall learning America's game as a member of the Blue Duke's football team. "At first, I had no idea what I was supposed to do! I had no clue what I was going to do, and they got me into good shape. I've never ran so much before in my life!" Hansen said.

When that season ended, the 6'8" athlete found himself drawn to something more familiar. "I thought of myself as a pretty good swimmer, and pretty fast, but honestly I'm not very fast here!" Hansen said. "We were just happy to have him come aboard - whatever his level was," Whitefish Bay swim coach Jim Davis said.

Unlike with football, Hansen came to the United States with a lot of experience in the water. He grew up on a small German island, so he learned to swim in the North Sea - an enormous body of water at approximately 290,000 square miles - 13 times the size of Lake Michigan! "I started swimming when I was four. It's salt water, and it's actually easier to swim because the salt water keeps you up, so I was kinda surprised by the fresh water here," Hansen said.

Hansen also spent a few years lifeguarding in Germany, but he had never swam competitively until this season. "It was surprising to see this big guy come onto the team, and I was wondering what kind of swimmer he was. He's actually the most proficient in all the strokes of all my swimmers," Coach Davis said.

Hansen says that's because in Germany, he used to teach little kids how to swim, so it was important that he was teaching them proper technique. At Whitefish Bay High School, he's a teacher too. "When the rest of the team is sluffing off and not doing the work that they're supposed to do, he gets them going and actually is like a second coach," Coach Davis said.

Hansen heads back to Germany at the end of the school year, but hopes he'll get another chance to stretch his sports muscles. Hansen is viewed as a senior at Whitefish Bay, so he'll participate in graduation this spring. When he gets back to Germany, he'll start his junior year of school. He says he would love to come back to the United states for college, and hopes to major in chemistry.