Lourette Hakansson is one of the dominant figures in the history of collegiate swimming. She is the only person to win 12 national titles in 12 attempts, and one of only two swimmers to win the same three events four years in a row: the 400- and 200-meter individual medleys and the 100-meter breaststroke, in 1991, '92, '93 and '94. Her perfection landed her on the cover of Swimming World magazine.
Her athletic achievements are even more remarkable when you consider what she herself says: "I could hardly swim butterfly, my freestyle and backstroke were awful and even if breaststroke was my best event it was not very good either." When she came to Drury from Boras, Sweden, Hakansson only planned to stay for a year. But coach Brian Reynolds helped change "Lulu's" mind. He "was the best coach I ever met," she remembers, "he helped me so much. When I came to Drury I don't think Brian ever thought I would improve as much as I did. My times dropped every year and I got better and better every year." Reynolds points to Hakansson's dogged pursuit of excellence. "She had a tremendous drive and work ethic...Along with her incredible work ethic, Lulu loved to race, and hated to lose even more."
Lulu came to Drury to swim, encouraged by Thomas Saaf, a Drury alumnus who was her coach in Sweden. Once she decided to stay at Drury, she chose a major in criminology and minors in sociology and psychology, and planned to follow a career as a police officer. "Of course, class work was as important as swimming," she recalls,"but swimming was more fun." To make sure life was neither all fun nor all work required more than a little effort. "Some periods were very tough, but you have to be very organized to manage it all," Hakansson says. "I tried to study every day, to make sure I didn't have to study on the weekends we competed. I brought books with me every time, but I don't think I ever did study when we had competitions."
When her years at Drury were up, Coach Reynolds asked Hakansson to stay and train for the Olympics. She headed home instead. "I was so homesick I didn't want to, and that is the only thing I can think of that I regret from four years at Drury."
When she returned to Sweden, Lourette Hakansson didn't leave Drury entirely behind. Coach Reynolds had admired the swimsuits Hakansson's father made for his daughter's competitions, and suggested the family start a swimsuit manufacturing business. They did: Lane 4 (www.lane4.com, in Swedish) makes and sells a stylish array of suits.
"If we had not started Lane 4, I would be a policewoman now," says Hakansson. "Maybe in the future." For now the success of her company is a testament to the breadth of Drury's liberal arts education, and a reflection of the drive for success that made Lourette Hakansson one of Drury's greatest athletes.