Written By: Maggie Foight
Luca Urlando is no stranger to competitive pressure.
Urlando, a current sophomore at the University of Georgia, competed as an age-group swimmer with DART Swimming at both domestic and international high-level meets. In 2018, he swam at the Junior Pan-Pacific Championships and at the Speedo Winter Junior Nationals. A year later, Urlando had competed at the FINA World Junior Championships and at the US Open.
Remembering his youth swimming days, Urlando says that his favorite part about competing internationally was “just racing people from other countries” and “embracing people whose names you hear but you’ve never seen before.”
In his debut year with the Bulldogs, Urlando quickly won several Southeastern Conference and UGA honors. Not only did he set top-10 program times in the 100 and 200 freestyle, 100 and 200 butterfly and 200 IM, he helped several relays to new team records. After winning the 200 butterfly, medalling in several relays and finishing top-five in other events at the 2021 SECs, Urlando was named to the First Team All-SEC and to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Not quite finished with his breakout year, the freshman excelled at the DI NCAA Championships, touching fourth in the 200 and eighth in the 100 butterfly. With notable work in several relays too, Urlando earned First Team CSCAA All-America honors in the 100 and 200 butterfly as well as the 200 and 800 freestyle relays and the 200 medley relay. At the 2021 US Olympic Trials, he finished third in the 100m and 200m butterfly finals.
Urlando, then, has a pretty long history of top-tier swimming. “I have been to meets with those high-level swimmers,” he says, but competing at Olympic Trials, “it was pretty crazy.” Urlando adds, “it was a new experience… it was a learning experience, no matter what happens with races or whatnot.”
He recognizes the stressful, fun and sad times of big-name meets, but in a true act of forward-thinking, the student-athlete mentions: “I know what I need to get better at… staying healthy, consistently eating and sleeping well.” Urlando also says that resting is another part of his training process that he can improve upon.
Looking ahead, Urlando says he would love to join the International Swim League or start competing in higher world circuits. “Pro swimming is still a goal of mine and what I’m planning on doing after I graduate, or before I graduate,” he says. “I’m kind of just seeing how things play out over these next few years.”
Urlando says about the ISL specifically that there is definitely room to grow. He is excited to see them expand, showing on more TV channels and having more swimmers and swim families watch. He thinks it could be really unifying for the community.
Before Urlando goes fully pro, though, he says a “big step” to becoming a professional swimmer would be to find sponsors: “... with the new [Name, Image, and Likeness] Plan, which basically allows student athletes to make money and have sponsors, that’s definitely something that I can do now, which is a big step to becoming a professional swimmer.” Open to anything, Urlando mentions that he’d be interested in “some cool sponsorships” like Speedo, Omega (the watchmaker), or Guayakí Yerba Mate, a canned herbal tea company.
Urlando is excited for the future. With room to grow and goals to achieve, he is ready for the next step in his swimming career. Patience, he says, is key: “Just stay focused and committed to your craft,” and you’ll get where you want to be.
Gianluca Urlando competes for the University of Georgia Bulldogs as a current sprint and mid-distance butterflyer, backstroker and freestyler. In his time as an age-group swimmer for DART Swimming, Urlando competed at high-level meets like the 2018 Speedo Winter Junior Nationals and Junior Pan-Pacific Championships, as well as the 2019 FINA World Junior Championships and U.S. Open. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, he was named to the USA Swimming National Team. At the 2020 US Olympic Trials, Urlando placed 6th in the 200m freestyle prelims. In his freshman year at UGA (2020-2021), Urlando earned several First Team CSCAA All-America honors, finished fourth in the 200 butterfly and eighth in the 100 butterfly at the NCAA championships, was named to the First Team All-SEC and named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Additionally, he competed as part of some of the fastest relays in school history (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay) and posted several top-10 program times. A native Californian, Urlando is majoring in Sport Management and is projected to graduate UGA in 2024.