A for Athlete

Sunita Williams

Bernal's Gator Swim Club Alumn Blasts into Orbit [1][]

Sunita (Sunny) Pandya Williams, 41 in 2011, has traded her racing cap for a space helmet and is doing laps around the Earth as a crewmember of the Space Shuttle Discovery and a resident of the International Space Station. Only the second rookie to be assigned as an ISS crew member, she’ll spend the next six months upgrading the aging orbiting lab.

It’s not easy to become an astronaut. But it was clear that Williams had the right stuff back in the early 80’s as Gator from Needham, MA. “We did some running as a regular part of our training. Sunny came to me and said she wanted to try running the Boston Marathon (26.2 miles).” Coach Bernal explained to her that training and preparing for a marathon requires much more running than the several miles per week they did to augment their swim training. Undeterred, Sunny bought a new pair of running shoes and in a couple of weeks entered to run. “Off to a good start, she encountered foot problems with the new sneakers after 4 miles. Instead of giving up, Sunny took the running shoes off and proceeded to run the rest of the race barefoot.”

After Gators, she entered the Naval Academy and in 1987 graduated with a BS in Physical Sciences. During a distingushed career in the Navy as a flight avaiator she completed her MS in Engineering Management from Florida Institute of Technology. She was accepted into the NASA Astronaut training program in 1998.

Married to Michael J. Williams the couple lives in Houston with their Labrador retrievers and a crazy Jack Russell Terrier named Gorby. Williams is currently scheduled to return to Earth in June of this year aboard the Endeavour.