MIT News | June 15, 2023
“All I did was swim,” says Jerry Lu, recalling his teenage years as a competitive swimmer. “From age 12 to 19, it was close to 30 hours a week of training.” Although Lu no longer competes himself, his understanding of the dedication and impeccable technique required in elite sports continues to shape his path as a master’s student at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Lu majored in systems and information engineering and economics. He had stopped swimming competitively, but he stayed connected to the sport as a technical performance consultant for the university’s nationally ranked swim team. Under his advisor, Ken Ono, Lu built a methodology of analyzing data from sensors worn by swimmers to improve their individual performance. By looking at an athlete’s propulsion and drag data over the course of a race, Lu can advise them on where they can shave off tenths of a second simply by adjusting their stroke to be more efficient.
That experience inspired Lu to pursue a career in other aspects of sports. At MIT he’s pursuing a master’s in finance to build the analytical skills necessary to enable the sustainability of sports that don’t already enjoy the major commercial success of, say, football or basketball. It’s especially a challenge for Olympic sports, such as swimming, which struggle for commercial ventures outside of Olympic years.
“My work in swimming is focused on athlete performance to win, but the definition of winning is different for a sport as a whole, and for an organization,” Lu says. “Not only do you need to win medals, a big part of it is how you allocate money because you also need to grow your sport.”