Five questions with Lawrence Sapp, Succeed student and men’s swimmer at UMSL

by | Nov 20, 2023

A native of Waldorf, Maryland, Sapp has been a member of Team USA Swimming since 2017.
Lawrence Sapp

UMSL student Lawrence Sapp has been a member of Team USA Swimming since 2017, when he won gold in the 100-meter backstroke at the World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

At 21, Lawrence Sapp has already made waves across the nation and globe as a world-class swimmer. Sapp, a native of Waldorf, Maryland, who is autistic, has been a member of Team USA Swimming since 2017, when he won gold in the 100-meter backstroke at the World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City. At the 2019 championships in London, he earned a silver in the 100-meter butterfly. Most recently, Sapp competed at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games, which were held in 2021 due to the pandemic, placing fifth in the 100-meter butterfly. This school year, he’s brought his talents to the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where he’ll compete on the Tritons men’s swimming team and study in the Succeed Program, a postsecondary program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

1. When did you start swimming?

I started swimming when I was a little boy, 5 to 6 years old. I did summer swimming with my siblings.

2. When did you get serious about competitive swimming?

I’ve been doing year-round, competitive swimming since I was 11 or 12 years old. I won an award, and I won medals when I was 11. I did USA Swimming, and I became faster and stronger. In ninth through 12th grade, I broke records in high school. Freshman year, I broke five school records while competing with the varsity team.

3. What would you say is your favorite part of swimming?

What I like about being in the water is if I work hard and train hard, then my times keep dropping down. I try to work hard. It’s all about training. It’s all about the breakouts and pace as I get better and stronger.

4. What does it mean to come to UMSL and study while being able to compete at a collegiate level?

I came to UMSL because I wanted a school that had a program for students that need extra support and one with a competitive swim team. I’ve wanted to swim in college, and I want to qualify to make the NCAAs. I want to be athlete of the year in swimming. I would also say I want to do the best I can and work well as a team – work with each other, talk to each other and practice to work together at the meets.

5. What are you looking forward to this school year?

I want to get good grades – follow the rules and follow directions – and work hard and do the best I can. I also want to be a good leader in the Succeed Program. I like it here, and I’m going to have a great year. I want to show people how proud I am to be here.

This story was originally published in the fall 2023 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email magazine@umsl.edu.

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