Ling Kuhn reminisces on years as diver


Ling Kuhn completes a dive against Nebraska on Jan. 26. The Illini fell 174-126 to the Cornhuskers.

By Gabby Vazquez, Staff writer

While it’s an emotional time for many of the Illini swimming and diving seniors who just recently competed in their senior day meet, Ling Kuhn couldn’t be happier with where her time at Illinois has brought her.

Kuhn, a senior from Bloomington, Illinois, has been swimming since she was in first grade. She competed in swim meets, but due to her height, she kept losing. No child really enjoys losing, so Kuhn tried diving and, according to her, “was a natural.”

Kuhn went on to compete in several U.S. Diving Junior Regional and Zone meets. She’s a two-time IHSA state qualifier and was the leader on the region’s all-time list, per

While Kuhn said there are many strong female athletes she looks up to, she’s been most inspired by one woman in particular. Laura Wilkinson, an Olympic gold Medalist, competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 summer Olympics before retiring.

Kuhn has been a fan of hers since she was a little girl. Wilkinson recently underwent neck surgery but is still swimming.

“She’s the definition of ‘no excuses,’” Kuhn said. “I just feel like if she can do all that, I can push through.”

When it came time for Kuhn to start looking at colleges, the last place she wanted to go was Illinois. However, it wasn’t until she came to visit that she realized Champaign was where she was meant to be.

“Both of my parents went here, got married here and always made me go to football games,” Kuhn said. “But when I went on my official visit, Illinois offered me an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The tradition here at the University with my family was something you only get once in a lifetime, and all the sudden, this place felt like home.”

Being a student-athlete offers unique challenges, but Kuhn focuses on the feeling she gets every time she competes in the pool.

“We represent 40,000-plus people,” Kuhn said. “It’s an honor to be representing such a prestigious university.”

Like many other swimmers, Kuhn has a pre-meet ritual. Every night before she hits the pool, Kuhn has to paint her toenails teal. She’s been using the same shade of teal from OPI for years.

“I always need to have my nails painted, and I love teal, so it just makes sense,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn also listens to certain songs depending on her mood before a meet.

“If I’m not feeling confident, I’ll listen to ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ by Diplo,” Kuhn said.

She uses music to get into her zone before a meet.

Kuhn is majoring in hospitality management with hopes of working in catering or event planning. However, after graduation, Kuhn is looking to compete in the Olympic Trials.

“‘What do you want to do after you graduate?’ has become the question of the semester,” Kuhn said. “I want to go to the Olympic Trials because years from now, I don’t want to be asking myself, ‘What if?’”

[email protected]