Winter sports athletes take center stage as this week’s Athletes of the Week

Cindy Dong (sophomore), this week’s athlete of the week, is a member of the women's swimming & diving team at Occidental College. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.Sydney Shipp (first year), this week’s athlete of the week, is a member of the men's basketball team at Occidental College. Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental

Sydney Shipp

Occidental men’s basketball guard Sydney Shipp (first year) scored 15 points off the bench in Occidental’s 88–76 win over West Coast Baptist University Nov. 13. The newcomer has averaged 13 points per game through three games this season and collected two steals against West Coast Baptist University. Shipp said his offensive contribution has stemmed from his ability to work alongside big scorers Jacob Adler (junior) and Caleb Yellin-Flaherty (senior).

“It’s a confidence booster, cheering for my teammates on the bench, and coming off the bench not trying to force anything, taking shots within the flow of the offense,” Shipp said. “Playing with the guys, working through the flow of the game, that’s how I get my shots up.”

Shipp said the coaches were looking for him to work hard on defense this year with Occidental’s smaller lineup.

“I’m someone to come in and play hard defense,” Shipp said. “My role was never really to score — it was to pick up somebody full court and play good defense. Scoring just came with it.”

According to Shipp, his best attributes are his work ethic and peskiness on defense.

“I think I’m aggressive on defense, I’m a team player, I’m a hard worker,” Shipp said. “Whoever is in front of me, I want to give them the hardest time. I want to be a pest on defense.”

Shipp said he models his game off of Collin Sexton, the second-year Cleveland Cavaliers guard, because of his tenacity on both ends of the floor.

“I like Collin Sexton’s mentality; he has a dog mentality. He’s a hard worker on defense, and he gets it done on the offensive side too. He’s always dialed in,” Shipp said.

Shipp said basketball has given a lot back to him in his life.

“It taught me how to work with a team, it’s taken me a lot of places I’d never been, meeting new people,” Shipp said. “It brought me to Oxy.”

Shipp said his father inspires him as a player because of the hard work ethic he instilled in Shipp at a young age.

“He’s the one who’s always been there — getting up shots early in the morning,” Shipp said. “He’s the one who really pushed me into playing basketball and into really working hard.”

Cindy Dong

Occidental swimming butterfly specialist Cindy Dong (sophomore) won the 200 and 500 freestyle races against Chapman University Nov. 9. Dealing with a shoulder injury, Dong stepped into new events and dominated, despite her lack of experience.

“The 500 free, I was not prepared for that, in terms of how I was going to do in compared to others,” Dong said. “I swam alongside two swimmers who train for that event — it was a pretty good start for my first meet to do well in two events that I don’t usually do.”

Dong said it is common for athletes to find success in events that are not their favorite.

“There are definitely events that people are good at, but they don’t necessarily want to do,” Dong said. “For me, the 200 fly is something I’m good at, but it’s an event that is hard to complete. It’s mentally difficult to prepare yourself. You know it’s going to hurt because you’ve done it so many times before.”

Dong said her goal is to return to the NCAA championships this year with more experience — and to pull her team along with her.

“My personal goal for the season is to be able to recover from my injury to be able to train as hard as I did last year to make it to nationals,” Dong said. “As a first year last year, I was not prepared for what nationals was. Going forward this year, I want to go again, and I want to bring other teammates along.”

According to Dong, the best part of being an Occidental swimmer is the community it created for her.

“My favorite part of swimming here is having a team behind you, that family aspect,” Dong said. “We have 50 swimmers and divers, so it’s really nice knowing there’s always going to be someone there for you.”

Dong said dealing with an injury this semester has emphasized to her how important the student-athlete community is at Occidental.

“It’s different with athletes, because with athletes, people know what you’re going through, they know what your struggle is,” Dong said. “It’s very nice knowing people have been through similar issues.”

Dong said participating in a sport with both individual and team aspects helps motivate athletes.

“When you’re swimming, you do swim against yourself, you swim against your own time,” Dong said. “Having to swim against other people motivates you to do better, but if you do well for yourself, you do well for the team.”

Dong said she is looking forward to seeing who will step up this season to help the team achieve their goals.

“I’m honestly just so excited to see where this season takes us,” Dong said. “It’s very interesting to see how people progress throughout the year, and who is able to completely take over championship season.”