Laird graduated in December 2015 from Kelley Indianapolis with double majors in accounting and finance. She currently swims with the Carmel Swim Club.

It was several years ago when one of Laird’s coaches put the idea in her head that she could potentially swim for her mother’s home country. Her mother was born and raised in Seychelles, and after moving to Germany, she met and married Laird’s father, a member of the U.S. Air Force. Laird says when she swims for Seychelles, where many members of her family still live, she swims for her mother, who passed away when she was only four years old.

“I’m able to connect with her this way. My mother passed away when I was very young, and when you’re young, you don’t remember a lot of things. Swimming has brought me closer with my family there (in the Seychelles), and they’ve become a big part of my life,” said Laird. “I’ve heard so many stories about my mother. She was a sweet woman and so caring.

“The girls who I swim with in Seychelles: many of their mothers were friends with my mom. To be able to honor her in this way is awesome.”

Laird’s swimming career with the Seychelles National Team has taken off over the past couple years. She’s set multiple national records for the small island nation in backstroke and freestyle events. She’ll swim the 100-yard backstroke in Rio.

Laird says, above all, the ability to reconnect with family in the Seychelles, especially those who knew her mother well, has meant so much. The most important part, she says, has been honoring her mother’s memory and learning more about her mom from those who were close to her growing up.

“This is a chance of a lifetime,” said Laird. “I’ll never forget the moments I shared with those closest to my mom, and I can’t wait for the moments at the Olympic Games.”

After the Rio 2016 Games, Laird, who was named among IUPUI’s Top 100 students in 2014 and 2015, plans to study for the CPA exam and pursue a career in public accounting.

“Swimming is a way to zone in and work on being more focused. That relates to my school life, and what I would like to do in my career as an accountant. That’s the next phase of my life that I’m very excited for,” she said.

As Laird heads to Rio this summer, she hopes to inspire others to follow their passions. For those who have a dream, she reminds them, don’t ever stop chasing it.

“Take what you’re good at, and be proud of it. That’s what makes you who you are, and that’s what’s going to make you successful in life,” said Laird. “Be the best you that you can be.”