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Fish Out of Water
by Joe Kays
While in France on a research fellowship, two-time Academic All-American swimmer Kevin Nead switched gears for a long-distance bike race to raise money for diabetes research.
You're a 21-year-old college student with four days to kill in France. You could (a) drink Champagne on the Champs-Élysées, (b) soak up the sun on the Riviera, or (c) ride your bicycle 400 miles through unfamiliar countryside to raise money for diabetes research.
University of Florida swimmer Kevin Nead—in France at the Institut Pasteur de Lille last year as part of the university's HHMI-funded Science for Life program—chose the third option and raised nearly $4,000 for the American Diabetes Association.
From his broad shoulders and apparent lack of body fat, it's clear Nead is no stranger to strenuous physical activity. As a member of his college swim team, he typically swims as much as 20,000 yards (over 11 miles) a day. So when his laboratory in Lille closed for a week last August, he decided to do something different.
“Originally, I got on a bike when I realized I couldn't just go to a swimming pool whenever I wanted, like I can here,” says the soft-spoken Nead as he sits in the lobby of the University of Florida's swimming and diving complex.
Soon Nead was cycling hundreds of miles a week. He had already started mapping out a cycling vacation when he stumbled on an article about cycling fundraisers. That night he brainstormed the entire project.
Nead drafted letters to family, friends, teammates, and others he had met during a college career that included athletic and academic All-America honors as well as numerous awards for community service and scholarship. He steered anyone interested to a blog he created on the Website of a Gainesville, Florida, newspaper.
Photos: Daron Dean