Hall of Fame

Michael Kiedel
Swimming & Diving

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Mike Kiedel is one of the fastest to swim in Blodgett pool—the record boards on the wall can tell you that. Mike was named to the All-Ivy First Team for 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle relay, and the 800 freestyle relay in 1997. In 1998, he earned First Team honors in 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 200 IM, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay, 800 freestyle relay, and 400 medley relay. Mike is ranked first all-time in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:34.94. He wasn’t just a sprinter, however—he currently ranks second all-time in the 500 freestyle. At the time of induction, he ranked fourth all-time in the 100 freestyle with a time of 44.38. He also holds records on relay teams in the 400 and 800 freestyle relays. He is the 1997 conference champion in the 200 freestyle, and the 1998 conference champion in 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, and 200 IM. In 1997 he was named an All-American for the 800 freestyle relay and 200 freestyle. That year, he also earned All-American Honorable Mention for the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. Mike helped lead the Harvard men’s swim team to three consecutive Eastern Championships (1995-1998). After college, Mike competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, representing Germany in the 800 freestyle relay.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

I arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1996 as a transfer student my junior year from the University of Florida. Transferring to Harvard was an ambitious undertaking and it marked many new beginnings, three short years after I had arrived in the U.S. as an exchange student from Germany. Now I was here, motivated and somewhat intimidated, knowing that I would have to dedicate more time and energy to my studies than ever before just to keep up and then some to make up for course credit lost as a result of the transfer. Since I had not qualified as hoped for the German Olympic team in 1996, and after taking a long summer break from the sport, I had slowly warmed up to my existence as a man of leisure, resigned to the possibility that, for the very first time in my life, I would quit swimming altogether if I could not reignite the competitive fire or if swimming proved too much of a detraction from my academic obligations. Fortunately, I never quit or even came close to. Harvard Swimming and Diving was different than any other team I had ever been part of. At Harvard, swimming was a team sport instead of an individualistic pursuit. The camaraderie and sense of shared purpose fueled the competitive fire under coach Mike Chasson’s expert tutelage. I thrived in the new environment where I felt equally challenged in the classroom and the pool and the ensuing two years would become the most intense and memorable years of my life. Swimming at Harvard is a team sport above all else and the team met informally each year for a pre-term trip to Long Island for a week of fun and games. For the upper classmen, this event provided the opportunity to reconnect after a summer of training, traveling and working. For a transfer student like me, it was the first time I got to meet Harvard students and I spent the time to acquaint myself with my new teammates before the season officially got underway. The week was filled with excursions to Long Island beaches, a day in New York City, friendly ultimate Frisbee competitions and a few fun nights out around town. The team was welcoming and accepting which made my transfer to Harvard a smooth transition. Back in Cambridge, the University had organized a variety of orientation meetings for transfer students which I attended and it was there that I would meet my future wife Kate Surman. Being a swimmer on campus earned us much respect from our classmates and why shouldn’t it? After all, swimming 12,000 yards or more five days out of the week while taking a normal course load requires enormous amounts of physical energy, mental toughness, determination and time management skills. Getting through the daily routine was challenging and was only mitigated by the knowledge that your teammates were struggling through the same routine and that you were not alone. Let me explain what the daily grind is like for a swimmer at Harvard. Your first water contact for morning practice occurs at 6AM sharp, long before the first classes begin or most normal students even contemplate starting their day. The margin for error at this early hour is low and when your alarm rings at 5:37AM, you have just minutes to make it to practice on time. Arriving even a few minutes late is unacceptable and will earn you the wrath of the coach which can easily manifest itself into a brutal makeup session or a particularly grueling set of butterfly designed to fill you with regret. In other words, hitting the snooze button is not a viable option. When you step out of bed, you realize that you are still sore from practice the night before and since you had to finish a project for school you didn’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep that the surgeon general would undoubtedly require of someone your age and activity level. So the real first question is how hard will you push yourself at 6AM in the morning when you are exhausted, grumpy and at best half awake? The cold water contact will take care of the latter and your teammates next to you will remind you that they mean business. Since your teammates motivate you, you put forth your best effort because you believe that every stroke of every set and every practice truly matters and is necessary to achieve your goals. The highlight of my day was the daily meal with my teammates after practice. Eating with your comrades in arms was consistently fun and social yet it also served a more basic, animalistic purpose. Imagine a hungry pack of wolves descending on a large buffet. We weren’t that different, perhaps a little more civilized but just as hunger crazed and determined to get our food fix. Eating, which in this context should better be referred to as the panicked consumption of calories to replace burned fuel, is a sacrosanct ritual for us swimmers that must not be delayed, particularly after a grueling workout. Two slices of pizza at 9PM after a generously apportioned dinner hours earlier were a mere necessity rather than a luxury. After all, your muscles were still recovering, damaged cells were being repaired, glycogen replenished and fat restored. Your body cannot trust you anymore because you keep punishing it and it demands food, more food because it knows that the next grueling practice is just around the corner. I remain appreciative of my now-wife Kate for not walking out on me during our first date in the Square on account of my rude behavior when I refused to share even a single slice of my large pizza with her. I had already been irritated by the 15 minute delay to get to our table, 15 precious minutes that kept me from my food, and after a 6,500 yard workout, why again would I want to share a large pizza with anybody? Why was this girl trying to eat my food? Kate would soon realize that my swimmer body needed substance after workouts and it needed it quickly or else my mood could shift from good to bad in a heartbeat. The swim team would ritualistically meet at Elliot House for breakfast given the dining hall’s convenient proximity to Blodgett pool. There we would huddle together every morning, trays upon trays stacked with food. One of the many memorable moments was to watch in awe how my teammates Marek Biegluk and Alex Kurmakov devoured a dozen egg whites each for breakfast, every day for a full season while extolling the benefits of a high protein diet. After the hearty breakfast came the inevitable lull and if you were smart enough you would not schedule classes until ten in the morning and instead return to your dorm room for a quick nap. But not everybody had that luxury or foresight. Going straight from breakfast to your first lecture would set you up for an often drawn out battle of mind over body – your body that wanted and needed a nap and your mind that was telling you to stay focused on the lecture slides that relentlessly appeared and disappeared on the overhead. One memory that stands out is the distorted visual that we must have displayed in the balcony seats of Sanders Theatre during the then and still popular “Justice” lecture by Professor Michael Sandel. The balcony seats are unusually dim and when surrounded by your teammates who have spread their Crimson parkas on the benches as far as the eye can see, the entire arrangement becomes soothingly comfortable, too comfortable perhaps. And despite our best efforts to fight off our overworked bodies’ cries for sleep, we at times fell into micro naps where our tired muscles twitched haplessly as they released tension and lactate from prior workouts. What a sight we must have been. We quite literally looked like fish out of the water, with some of the twitching being so violent that you could easily get bruised sitting next to your twitching teammate. To this day, I remain amused about this experience yet feel apologetic to the rest of our classmates for our behavior. At the end of the day, whatever materials we missed in class we had to make up for in other ways. Being a swimmer at Harvard was more than an athletic experience, it was an identity that you carried with you like a badge of honor. Swimming was our way of life. The high point in our lifecycle occurred during our annual winter break training trips that would typically lead us to a tropical locale where we would spend a week crammed three or four deep into a cheap two-bed hotel room. But that hardly mattered. My first trip to Hawaii was with the swim team and it was amazing. For many of us, traveling to Hawaii or the Caribbean to swim outdoors for a week in balmy conditions was pure bliss, and provided a much needed mental break from the sometimes monotonous routine that awaited us in Cambridge. Workouts were still hard, tougher perhaps than usual given that we didn’t have any other distractions. I fondly remember an experience that our teammate and author Gregory Mone loosely memorialized in a children’s book called “Fish.” We had set up camp in Florida and had rented a beautiful catamaran for the afternoon. Since most of us were action oriented individuals in their prime we devised a nifty game that could be played by attaching a long rope off the stern, jumping in and hanging on for dear life. We were often submerged for a half minute or longer while the catamaran was moving at several knots per hour. It was the battle royale for the precious and overcrowded rope and unadulterated fun. In addition to building team cohesion,winter training trips were and continue to be an important training tool for the coaching staff to prepare us for peak performances in February and March. For us, it was the times of our lives and when we returned to a cold campus in Cambridge, we grinned overconfidently in our bronzed skins. Swimming is about setting goals and going about achieving them. As is the case with all sports, there are no guarantees that you will reach your goals. Swimming is pure and unforgiving in the sense that your efforts can be measured objectively with great ease and you are never subject to the whims of a referee. Instead you are judged by an indifferent Swiss timing system and what matters at the end of the season is the time you post on the scoreboard which will determine your place in the race and the number of points you score for the team. Our season culminated around two or three marquee events: the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, the Ivy League Championships and the NCAA Championships in mid-March. Qualifying for NCAAs is a tall order and in good years, one out of every six swimmers on the team will qualify. During my senior year, we were able to qualify an unusually large number of individuals for NCAAs. NCAAs is a tough meet where many of the world’s top athletes compete for bragging rights. Aside from the Olympics and perhaps the bi-annual World Championships, the NCAA championships are perhaps the world’s most competitive meet and performing at your peak when it matters in the face of this competition is the ultimate challenge. As a result, posting peak performances at NCAAs can be an elusive undertaking for many. Our senior year was different and we shared the rare experience where almost the entire team performed at their best. As a result we were able to place third in the 4x200 freestyle relay, beating such storied programs as Stanford, Cal, and Michigan. With so many great performances and cheered on by several teammates who had travelled to Auburn on their own dime, we were able to finish 11th in the country overall. When I reflect upon our achievements at NCAAs in March of 1998, I am filled with an unparalleled sense of accomplishment and pride and feel the connection to my teammates as if it was yesterday. Since senior year was my breakthrough year, I decided that the time hadn’t come yet to hang up my suit after graduation. Instead of starting a job as an investment banker, I opted to prepare for Germany’s Olympic trials where I qualified for the German Olympic team in Sydney 2000. Swimming in the Olympics requires many years of dedication and I could not have done it without the help and support of so many. Even at risk of leaving anyone out of what should be a page long list, I remain indebted first and foremost to my parents who fostered my early talent and supported my decision to embark on this adventure in the U.S. in the first place, my wife of almost 13 years, Kate Surman, who stood by me through many difficult times and coach Mike Chasson and former Harvard College Dean Jewitt who took a chance on me and supported my transfer application. Lastly, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, many of whom remain best friends to this day.