Sri Lankan Olympic Swimmer Competes for Lewis & Clark
Aniqah Gaffoor BA ’26, who represented her home country of Sri Lanka in the Tokyo Olympics, now competes on the L&C swim team. She’s also setting her sights on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
by Tara Elsa BA ’26
Aniqah Gaffoor BA ’26, who represented her home country of Sri Lanka in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021 due to the pandemic), now competes on the L&C swim team. She’s also setting her sights on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
While Gaffoor, a first-year student from Colombo, Sri Lanka, may be new to Lewis & Clark, she’s actually a legacy student. She’s following the footsteps of her father, Ishan Gaffoor BA ’90, who majored in business and administrative studies while at L&C. Aniqah says she feels “more secure” knowing that she’s in a place that was so familiar to her father. “He has college friends that still live here, and they help me out from time to time,” she says.
Davis United World College (UWC) Scholar. Prior to Lewis & Clark, she attended the UWC Thailand International School. She has traveled extensively due to her swimming competitions, visiting Japan, Korea, Hungary, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.Gaffoor is a
Murilo Martins, L&C’s head swim coach, played a key role in recruiting Gaffoor. “We had a few meetings with Aniqah, her father, and our head of International Students and Scholars,” Martins says. “We were able to show that we could offer her a great academic and training environment.”
In addition to her family’s connections in the area, Gaffoor has made strong relationships with her teammates. “I really love the team,” she says. “It’s like our little family, and that’s been a drive for me to keep going.”
Although Gaffoor is a lifelong swimmer, she entered the world of competitive swimming only six years ago. Despite having a later start than most Olympic swimmers, she quickly felt motivated by the discipline needed to excel in the sport. While preparing for the 2020 Olympics, her athletic schedule consisted of 10 weekly training sessions, which required her to begin practice at 5 a.m. and train about 20 hours per week.
Gaffoor, who was just 16 when she competed in the Tokyo Olympics, said she was still learning a lot about herself during that time.
“Growing mentally was what helped me during the Olympics in the end,” she says. “The physical stuff comes over time, but being mentally prepared for such a big international event on such a large scale and being so young” was most important.
Gaffoor competed in just one event at the Tokyo Olympics: the 100-meter butterfly, which takes about a minute to complete. “At the Olympics, everyone was nervous, but I was like, ‘I did the hard work. Now I’m just going to enjoy it.’ So I didn’t have a single nerve at all.” Gaffoor finished second in the first heat with a time of 1:05.33; however, she wasn’t able to move forward in the next round.
Following the Olympics, Gaffoor was training so hard that she started losing sight of why she began swimming and why she enjoyed it. To break this cycle, she decided to join the L&C team, where she rediscovered her motivation and love for swimming.
Gaffoor has excelled on the L&C swim team. At the Northwest Conference Men’s and Women’s Swimming Championship, held in February, Gaffoor earned All-Conference honors in all three of her individual events (100-yard butterfly, 50-yard freestyle, and 200-yard butterfly). She also set a new L&C program record in the 100-yard butterfly, with a time of 57.84. All in all, Gaffoor closed out her first year of swimming with six Top 10 marks in the L&C program record book.
Using the life-balance and organizational skills she’s learned through competitive athletics, Gaffoor plans to continue pursuing her goal of making it to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She also plans to keep exploring her interests in photography, rock climbing, jet skiing, and traveling the world.
Gaffoor is pursuing a major in biology and a minor in health studies. After graduation, she aspires to become an athletic trainer working in sports medicine, possibly for a national team such as the Sri Lankan team she competed for.
After the 2024 Olympics, Gaffoor plans on swimming less competitively, exploring her career interests, and perhaps coaching other athletes.
“Now I’m remotivated and repumped up,” says Gaffoor. “I’ve just got to try and break my Sri Lankan national record to hopefully make it to the next Olympics. But I also won’t be mad if I don’t make it. I can always try again in the future since I’m only 19.”