Voices (ISL Stories)

Meet Olivia Lorton, art teacher and champion swimmer

It's not every day you find your teacher also excelling as a champion swimmer. In ISL we are very lucky to have many talented colleagues with diverse interests and success stories. Today we want to introduce you to one of them: Olivia.

Olivia recently competed at the World Aquatics Masters Championships in Doha, clinching gold medals in the 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly, while also breaking national records. Let's get to know her better.

Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your role at ISL?

My name is Olivia Lorton and I have worked as an Art teacher in the Upper School here at ISL for the past 16 years, teaching middle school, IGCSE Art and Design and the IBDP program. Previously I worked for 6 years at the International school of Atlanta and 5 years in Botswana, Africa, teaching art and running an interior design company.

Both my children have been educated here at ISL and are now both at university, my daughter is in the UK studying Special Needs and Disability and my son is studying Material Science at MIT, Boston. Both thrived at ISL and have gone on to pursue their interests.

How did you first get into competitive swimming, and what inspired you to join the World Aquatics Masters Championships?

I grew up in the UK where I joined a swimming club at the age of 8. I managed to compete for my County becoming a champion in my Freestyle and Butterfly events, I also represented Northern England. During A-levels a choice had to be made and that was to concentrate on studying Art and Design, so I left the swimming behind. 

10 years ago at the age of 40 I decided it was time to get swim fit once again and joined a masters swim team here in Luxembourg. It has only been in the past year that I have taken my swimming more seriously as both my children have left home and I was turning 50. With the encouragement of my husband, teammates and coach I decided this was the year to focus on competing again

Balancing your career as an art teacher with rigorous swim training must be challenging. Can you tell us how you manage your time effectively to excel in both areas?

Luckily I am able to easily balance my career and training schedule as my husband is now able to do all of our domestic chores, so I can get up in the morning to train and then go straight to work. The only area which unfortunately I have had to step back from this year is coaching ISL swim team, which I have done for the past 10 years.

Winning medals and setting a national record is an incredible achievement. What was going through your mind when you realized you had achieved such success?

Winning two gold medals at the world championships was really an amazing experience, both races were so close I had no idea what position people came. Initially I saw the scoreboard and was very pleased with my times (new national records), knowing that I could not have gone any faster. It was only later I knew I had won, it was unbelievable.

As an art teacher, you inspire creativity in your students. How does your passion for swimming complement your role in the classroom, and vice versa?

As with any sport you have to put the hours in to be successful, it requires dedication, pain and sacrifices which leads to sometimes success and also disappointment. Being resilient is needed which I instill in my art students, I am always encouraging them to develop their work. I tell them we are never finished, as there are always improvements to be made.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to pursue their passions outside of their academic or professional pursuits?

My students know that I am a firm believer of a work life balance, having a healthy body goes hand in hand with a healthy mind. When they say they cannot come to swim training because they have to study, I say that doing an hour of exercise will improve their performance in all areas.

What do you enjoy the most about working at ISL, and how does the supportive environment contribute to your success both in the pool and in the classroom?

I have been lucky enough to both be a teacher and a parent here at ISL, the institution has been one that has supported me and family throughout. Academically we have all continued our learning and enjoyed the extra-curricular activities to support our interests. The school did not hesitate to allow me the opportunity to go to the European Championships in 2016 and now the World Championships in Qatar 2024.

How do you think your achievements in swimming impact your students, and what lessons do you hope they take away from your journey?

I think that my achievements in swimming encourage the students that sport is not just for the young but can be enjoyed over a lifetime. I never even knew that there was such a thing as Masters competitions and now I am so pleased I got involved. I hope that I can show people out there, particularly women, that it is never too late to get back into sport.

Finally, what are your future goals, both in your swimming career and as an educator at ISL?

I feel very lucky that I am still healthy and strong at 50. You never know what is around the corner, I want to swim as long as I can. My future goals are to continue to develop the arts here at ISL and to swim in the World Championships in Singapore, 2025.

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