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Escaramuza

words | Myra Carlos

 

This is more than a story about a girl and her horse.

It is a story about how family tradition introduced a young woman to a sport unique to her culture, and how that turned into a lifelong passion.

That sport is escaramuza: Solely for women, it is a sight to behold, as a team of ladies ride sidesaddle and make their horses dance in rhythm to Mexican music. Akin to synchronized swimming, it entails elaborate, intricate, and detailed choreography between rider and horse, then rider and horse and team, performing as one. It is a big part of charrería – an equestrian tradition similar to rodeo that started in herding communities in Mexico in the 18th century. More than just for managing livestock, the tradition was created to foster better relationships between different families and is passed on through generations. Now, the charrería lives on in schools and associations where today’s youth are taught competition-level on skills, such as roping and reining using wild mares and bulls...

 
 

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Hannah Teter

olympic snowboarder

words | Myra Carlos

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If you haven’t heard of Hannah Teter before, well, prepare to be impressed - very impressed. This 30-year old Olympic champion has an amazing life story that reads like a book --- grew up the youngest in the family with four older and competitive brothers, trained to snowboard at 8, and proceeded to shine as she reaped one medal to another, and still found the time and the resources for her other passion -- charity work.

Having grown up in Vermont, winter sports came naturally to the Teter Brood. Young Hannah saw how competitive her brothers were in their sports and she embraced it, “I most definitely got my competitiveness being surrounded by boys my whole childhood who were all into sports! I would cheer them on as a toddler, and they took sports pretty seriously, so it rubbed off on me that if you’re going to do something, give it all you got! The biggest thing I learned from them was to not hold back, to jump into what you’re doing 110%.”

A school program when she was in second grade helped her find the perfect vehicle for her passion, snowboarding. Hannah narrates, “They would take us up to the mountain every other Friday. I had a little girls crew and we would rip up the mountain and loved every second of it. From these wins from childhood games, Hannah became inspired and pursued to be the best in the sport. At 15, she won the Junior World Championship in the women's halfpipe in 2002. The following year, Hannah made it to the U.S. National Team which opened the door for more honors: bronze  in women's halfpipe at the Winter X Games in 2003; four World Cup halfpipe events in 2003-04; U.S. Snowboard Overall Grand Prix women's halfpipe champion in 2004; bronze in women's superpipe, World Snowboard Champions in 2005; Vans Cup Champion in 2005; bronze in superpipe, Winter X Games, 2005; won women's halfpipe at the Chevy Grand Prix, 2005; and every athletes dream -- gold in women's halfpipe in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

The road to these victories isn’t an easy path. At an early age, Hannah started doing jobs such as dishwashing and mowing lawns to afford snowboarding which could get expensive. She looks back at this time with pride though and with gratitude for the lessons she has learned, “I was happy about it the whole time because sometimes to accomplish something, you have to start at the bottom and just believe in yourself 110% while thinking strictly positive to make it to the top.”

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Surprisingly, this woman who makes a living diving from the top of high powdery mountains admits to moments of fear, “I definitely get scared and nervous, butterflies filling my stomach especially when it’s blasting wind, or sub zero temperatures. To conquer the fear I just visualize myself doing exactly what it is that I want to throw down, seeing it perfect, feeling like I've already done it. That helps a lot.“

Aside from the medals, the rewards for Hannah’s hard work have been sweet -- literally. A few years ago, she received an invitation from another Vermont native, Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s to help them create a flavor named in her honor. They came up with Teter’s Maple Blondie which is made up of maple ice cream with blonde brownie chunks and a maple caramel swirl. Ever the competitive, Hannah is proud of the flavor’s success in the market and the fact that she is the first athlete and the first girl to have a Ben & Jerry’s flavor.

To continue telling Hannah’s story, though, is to learn about how she is also a champion in helping others. Just like her passion for sports, Hannah reveals that she became hooked in helping ever since she was a little girl and she learned it from her parents. “We sponsored children from third world countries when I was real young, and I'd read the letters they'd write to us how the money we were sending was completely changing their lives. It had a huge effect on me.” It made her realize that even though she thought she was “poor” growing up, she actually had opportunities other children, especially those from other countries, did not have. Hannah also shared that her charity work actually motivates her to continue with the sport and do well as she donates her earnings to her worthy causes.

In 2008, Hannah founded Hannah’s Gold which raises money through the sale of Vermont’s maple syrup. Earnings go to villages in Kenya to build schools and dig wells to provide fresh drinking water. One of the examples of her charity work is Hannah’s Gold and Sweet Cheeks – Panties for a Purpose which offers a unique way to help. Each month a new pair of undies will be released dedicated to a different charity.  Doctors Without Borders was the first recipient for their relief efforts in Haiti. That month, for every pair that is sold, five dollars will be donated to a different charity each month. Hannah is hoping to raise $100,000 by selling 20,000 pairs by May of this year. For the first month, the panties’ design had “Make Love Not War.” To find out what the next design is, the Sweet Cheeks website, where the products are also sold, has all the information.

Hannah's story is still unfolding. She doesn't see herself retiring soon, "Believe it or not I feel like I’ve been getting younger since the last Olympics I competed in. And it’s most likely from the fact that I care so much about health, and treating my body so good that it does exactly what I need it to do. The fact that I feel so good makes me want to keep going. To show people that age is all in your mind... the better you treat yourself, the more successful you can be."

See you in Pyeongchang in 2018, Hannah!

 

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Against the Odds: Kayla Caldwell

Pole Vaulter

words | Celestial Williams

 photography | Katie Finnicum

photography | Katie Finnicum

Growing up in the tiny village of Tuscarawas, Ohio, Kayla Caldwell had big dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete. Through her struggles, she learned how to become a fighter, a believer in heart and the human spirit.

“Sometimes we have to break before we can shine...I’m ready to be a glowstick,” says Kayla. She stands all of 5 feet tall, but her spirit soars.

Kayla remembers a home video when she was just a kid, “There’s a head of lettuce, snack packs, and some bottles in the refrigerator.” Her mother had her when she was just a teenager. She remembers not having a lot, but also remembers never wanting more than they had. Her parents ended up getting a divorce when she was five years old.

When Kayla was nine years old, her dad remarried. Her stepmother Melinda taught her never to settle for anything less than what you want. This was a turning point in Kayla’s life. This was also the time she found gymnastics. Kayla quickly climbed to level 9 gymnastics and wanted to compete at an elite level.

“Standing on top of that podium meant the world to me. For once I felt like I wasn’t worthless or invisible. I felt like I belonged. I found what my soul was searching for....competition." Kayla felt like her trials were more bearable because she had an outlet. She felt unstoppable until she reached the 8th grade.

Kayla did a double back handspring and landed on her neck. Her dreams of going to the Olympics shattered. Hard times for Kayla lay ahead. Her whole life revolved around gymnastics. Her time, her dreams, and even her friends. “This was my worst nightmare,” Kayla shared.

Her big brother was a sprinter on the track team, so she figured trying out for the team would be a way for her to hang out with him more. Little did she know what she would find..

During Kayla’s 8th grade year she ran hard. She was able to break records and found strength in competing again. During the year, there was one thing that kept catching her eye, pole vaulting.

Her freshman year, 14-year-old Kayla was jogging around the track, and Coach Dave Bell encouraged her to try pole vaulting. She fell in love with it from the beginning, and she was good, really good. That season she jumped 11 feet 9 inches at state, receiving second place. Sophomore year she became the first woman to clear 12 feet 9 inches in the state of Ohio and went on to win three state championships.

Kayla continued to climb while she attended Hillsdale College in Michigan. She also had her dream of becoming an Olympian in the back of her mind. She just had to try. After college, she made a call.

That life-changing call was to coach Earl Bell in Jonesboro, Arkansas. She won two international competitions in South Korea and Taiwan, then eventually made it to the Olympic Trials. “Always good, but never the best. The Olympic trials were the closest I ever came to being great. I was in reach of that dream I had held onto, the dream that got me through every bad thing. It was in my reach, and I failed to grab it. I was devastated. But the weeks after the trails, I learned so much about myself that missing that opportunity was one of the best things that could have happened to me.”

Kayla says, “I don’t give up especially when the going gets tough. Statistics say I am too short to be a great pole vaulter and my body structure isn’t quite right. I don’t believe in statistics; I believe in breaking them. I believe in heart and the human spirit, and that we can do anything we set our mind to. I believe that God’s strength is so much bigger than my own and can help me get through anything. I will always believe.”

We believe in Kayla Caldwell. Through her life, her example, her dedication, we can see that heart and strength come from never giving up. She’s taught us that sometimes we have to be broken a little so that we can truly shine. Kayla is just getting started. You can watch for her in the next Olympics!

Tips for pole vaulters and life:

  1. Have fun, enjoy the process and the small improvements.
  2. You must have a good sense of humor! There are some crazy wipeouts and funny things that happen while you’re vaulting.
  3. Even though vaulting isn’t a team sport, be a team player. Help other vaulters out, even at competitions.
  4. Don’t try to be the best today. Focus on the little things and the small steps to being great. My coach says, “Just think, if you got one inch higher every time you jump, you could break the world record in no time.”

Kayla’s last thoughts:

“I think the whole meaning of life is to prove how amazing humans are. If none of us pushed past what people thought was possible, we wouldn’t have any of our modern inventions or progress as humans. We would be stuck in the Stone Age! The world needs people to prove the impossible possible, and I’m just crazy enough to try!”

 

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Dressage with Kate Kudelko

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Our Fall Sports feature is the beautiful eighteen-year-old Kate Kudelko, an FEI level dressage Young Rider for the USA. She has been riding for almost seven years and owns two lovely horses named Mr. B and Watson. She recently shared with us the details of this beautifully elegant sport. 

Dressage...She explains, "Competitive dressage is an Olympic sport where a horse and rider combination must perform a pre-made ‘test’ that contains various rigorous movements within that specific level. A combination may also compete in a musical freestyle, where the riders choreograph their own routine and perform it to their choice of music. ‘Dressage’ comes from French, literally translating to ‘training’, which makes it the basis for relatively every other equestrian sport, from stadium jumping to western pleasure. The goal of dressage training is to essentially create a supple, fit, and trustworthy horse through the use of various gymnastic exercises.” Once a rider gets a basic riding education, they will usually split off into whatever particular equestrian discipline clicks with them the best, “Some prefer the high adrenaline rush found in stadium jumping and cross country, while others, like myself, prefer to stay on the ground and work on mechanics.” Many spectators consider dressage to be a form of dance between a horse and its rider, an aesthetic experience that is indefinitely a hidden gem.

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Kate become involved with horses back in 2011 when her family purchased her first horse named Watson, a little paint horse who was saved from an auction by a wonderful woman. She started doing dressage shortly after getting Watson. She laughs, "When I say that we started from ground zero, I actually mean more like ground-negative 20. I had only been riding for two months and Watson had very minimal dressage training, so the combination was quite the spectacle. We initially were not very successful in our showing career, despite the fact we were competing at the lowest possible level." Although friends and barn-mates advised her to sell Watson for a “real” dressage horse, she chose instead to keep trying with him. Six and a half years later, he has blossomed into a competitive upper level dressage horse, has placed 3rd at regionals back in 2014, and is helping Kate earn her USDF Bronze medal. She credits Watson and her amazing trainer for where she is today in her riding career.

At the moment, Kate is riding roughly 5 days a week and working out on the side so that she can stay in enough shape to keep up with her horses’ fitness. Three of those days she rides with both Mr. B and Watson, the other two are just with Mr. B. She takes one lesson per week with her trainer and participates in clinics with other reputable trainers in the area every several months.

As is the nature of horse riding, Kate really has to trust Watson with her life and she shares that he has proven himself through various situations over the years. "Some days I will hop on him with no saddle or bridle and just ride him around the property. I am able to put friends and family on him and he is always extremely cautious and takes such great care of them." She has only owned Mr. B for a couple of months, so she is not at the point of trusting him nearly as much, though he has proven to be very reliable thus far.

A competition day usually begins with an alarm spurring Kate awake at 4:30 AM to begin gathering her things for the big day. Routinely, she and her mother stop for their morning coffee on the way out to the show grounds and grab a bite to eat. Once at the show grounds, she checks on her horse, making sure that he has enough water, and begins to clean out his stall. She will also drop hay and grain for all the horses from her barn if she is on 'breakfast duty' that day. Once her horse is done eating, she'll take him out for a morning walk to let him stretch his legs and eat grass. When she is roughly an hour and a half out from her ride time, she will start dressing in her show attire and groom and tack up her horse. Warm-ups last roughly 30 minutes, then riders are called into the competition arena to ride a test. After the competition is over, her horse is led back to the barn for loads of treats and a bath. While waiting for the scores and results from her class to be posted, Kate will watch and cheer on her teammates as they compete. When the day comes to an end and all of the horses and tucked in for the night, the team usually goes out together for dinner to celebrate each other’s achievements.

 

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Someone to Know - Malia Ward Pro Surfer

words | Sara Gosch

Malia sits down with Luca Magazine to chat about surfing and what her life is like! Malia is a great example of a young woman reaching for her dreams, and spreading light wherever she goes.

 

How old were you when you became a surfer?

“When I was about three or four years old, my dad took me out on a longboard to tandem surf.  I fell in love with surfing in the summer of fifth grade, so that’s when my obsession, my captivation for riding waves began.”

 

What was one thing that made you want to become a surfer? 

“One thing that I discovered in surfing and in myself was the sensational and emotional passion that surfing inspired in me and even left behind.  The sessions and the moments within those sessions have contributed to my endless drive, affection, and belonging with the ocean. Surfing is an outlet for me to express who I am, my love, and to practice going outside of myself.”

Malia Ward - Pro Surfer
Malia Ward - Pro Surfer

Who is your biggest inspiration in life?

“My biggest inspiration in life is my parents.  My dad is someone I look up to for his talent, drive, and passion for surfing.  He never pushed surfing on me, allowing me to find my love for it on my own.  In the end, surfing found me like it was supposed to.  My dad being Chris Ward, a professional surfer, has had a big influence on me.  The connection that we share with the ocean is compelling and wonderful.  My mom has been a constant inspirational role model throughout my whole life. She is the most reliable, responsible, kind, and loving person in my entire world. She inspires me to be the best human I can be.”
 

What do your feel right before a competition?

“Right before I go into a competition, I feel a churning mixture of feelings. First, there’s that determined stay focused mindset intertwined with the perspective of being calm, relaxed, centered, and fired up all at the same time. Of course, I feel the excitement of the anticipation for the start of the heat, which is where that calm tactic is so helpful in keeping the excitement from turning into anxiety. When I stay focused on a plan and get in a mode where I feel that fire burning inside, the moments slow down, and I can use my excitement and elation as a weapon.”

What is one of the biggest awards that you are most proud of?

“I received an academic honor roll award for having a 4.4 GPA this year! As much as I love surfing, education and learning are very important to me as well.”
 

How many hours a week do you practice?

“I’m either training on land or in the water about 15-20 hours a week.”
 

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What is it like following in the footsteps of your father and being a professional surfer yourself?

“Having my father's footsteps to guide me in professional surfing has been a big inspiration. With his support and confidence in me, I am happy and proud to have a father that is a professional surfer. Although there will always be struggles of dealing with the footsteps that leave the shadows behind with them. I feel that my dad gives me more determination and desire to push myself and overcome that feeling of being in someone’s shadow.”

 

What is your favorite thing about living in California?

“My favorite thing about living in California is the fact that I was born and raised in San Clemente, which is a town of surf culture, and the waves are definitely worth living here. California's weather can't be beaten, and the ambiance is nice and laid back.”

Why is your favorite wave the snapper?

“Snapper is my favorite wave because I’m a regular footed surfer so I love my rights. Snapper is one of the most crowded waves on the planet, but the right point break is magical if you can snag a good wave. The wave is so long that it can make your legs feel on fire at the end. I like to compare this wave to Disneyland, the break is crowded as heck, but the rides are always worth it.”
 

What are some of the most exotic places that you have had the privilege of traveling for your surfing competitions?

“I’ve had surf trips to Indonesia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Barbados, Australia, Tahiti, Nicaragua, China, Mexico, and El Salvador.”
 

What are some of your favorite sports to participate in other than surfing?

“I love snowboarding, kickboxing, ice skating, skateboarding, gymnastics, and yoga.”
 

How do you protect your skin from the sun?

“I protect my skin from the sun by slathering on my favorite sun product, Surfergirl SunCare. The name is cute, and the product really works. I feel moisturized, protected and it smells like tropical candy.”

Malia Ward - Pro Surfer
Malia Ward - Pro Surfer

Where is your favorite place to shop for your cute surfing gear?

“My favorite place to shop for surf gear is Jack's Surfboards which has most of the stuff I’m looking for. I don't shop that much for gear, as I get much of it sent to me. My favorite wetsuits to wear are Cyber wetsuits. I recommend Future Fins for my fin set up.”

What advice would you give to young girls who look up to you?

“Open yourself up to trying new things, even if you’re scared. I encourage you to be brave and face your fears in the water and on land. Keep your heart and eyes open because you never know where your passion will find you and where it can take you. When you find your passion, follow it, no matter what fears and difficulties there are in your life, if you love something enough you will chase after it no matter what. I would also add to hold your own, be authentic, and use your power that is inside of you.”

 

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Taylor Ruck

Taylor Ruck

Olympic Swimmer

stylist | Jennifer O'Bannon
photography | Andrew Gleason
makeup | Pearl Espinoza

Sixteen-year-old Canadian Olympic swimmer, Taylor Ruck, has a story dreams are made of. The 6'1" beauty shared her experience of the day that she qualified for the Canadian Olympic Team. She began the 2016 Olympic Trials with bronchitis - not a good start. Her first event was the 200 freestyle, finishing 5th and within qualifying time, but they only take the top four. The second event was the 400 freestyle, in which she placed second but didn't meet the qualifying time. The Canadian officials considered her illness, perseverance, and winning career and decided to award her a coveted spot on the Olympic team! Taylor was elated. The following August in Rio, Taylor and her teammates would go on to win two bronze medals for Canada - the first women's freestyle swimming relay medals for the country in forty years.

Taylor's perseverance is obvious from her grueling training schedule. A normal day usually starts off with practice in the pool at 5:00 in the morning. After a full day of school, she is back in the water for two and a half hours. She wraps up the day with homework. When asked what her favorite indulgence was - she shared - eating anything chocolate! (Totally get that.)

In five years, Taylor sees herself graduating college and preparing to start her career. She hopes to have returned from her second Olympics sporting more shiny medals around her neck. Her favorite takeaways from Rio are the new friends she made and the connections she has with people from all over the world. Born in Canada, she has lived and trained in the U.S. for most of her life.  Through this Olympic experience, she now feels a strong connection with Canada. Pretty awesome, eh?

Reaching a high level in one's sport is incredibly difficult requiring dedication and countless hours of practice to get there; Taylor lives this everyday. So her advice for any young athlete is to keep practicing and never give up. Her belief that investing a large amount of time to accomplish one's dreams will ultimately pay off in the long run one way or another. Lastly she encourages everyone to enjoy the process, because if they have fun playing a sport, achieving their dreams are possible. 

 

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Someone to know - Skinner Sky HigH

Gymnast

words | Celestial Williams

At the age of 5 MyKayla Brooke “Myk” Skinner, began her gymnastics career. By the age of 11, she was inspired by an elite gymnast that started training at her gym. As she watched, her path became clearer. She too wanted to train as an elite level gymnast. Fast forward eight years, and she’s 19 years old, training at Desert Lights Gymnastics for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

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MyKayla Brooke “Myk” Skinner

Myk is very close to her mom Kym and her dad Cris. She also has three older siblings, Jeremy, Chelsea, and Katie. Family is very important to her. Her home is warm and inviting. There’s a sense of peace there. She’s just a little thing all of 5 feet tall, zero inches, but don’t let that fool you, she’s all strength. The more you talk to her, the more you realize that her strength isn’t just physical. 

Starting in 2012, Myk began her career as an elite gymnast on the US Senior National Team. After two years of fierce competition, she began to make a name for herself. Myk was awarded the gold medal in the team competitionat the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China. She also came home with a bronze medal in vault. “The awards that I’m most proud of are my medals from World’s in 2014,” she told us proudly.

In 2015 and earlier this year, Myk continued to demonstrate her drive, by adding 11 top three medals to her already impressive collection, including a silver medal at the Olympic Trials in vault.

The women’s gymnastics Olympic Trials were held in San Jose, California in July. Myk fought hard during the trials, improving her scores from just two weeks prior at the P&G Championships.

Myk ended the trials 4th overall. Unfortunately, the Olympic Committee did not place her on the five-woman USA team but placed her as an alternate. With Myk's impressive record and 4th place finish at trials, why did others make the team, even after falling, and placing 7th and 8th overall? The committee may have legitimate reasoning above and beyond athlete's endorsement deals and politics, but many are puzzled. Young elite gymnasts are questioning whether it's even worth training so hard if the system in women's gymnastics appears so unfair.

MyKayla Brooke “Myk” Skinner
MyKayla Brooke “Myk” Skinner

The bottom line, MyKayla is not done, she's going to Rio. Her sister has always been her lucky charm, but she’ll be unable to go to Rio, so Myk is bringing along a bracelet, given to her by her coach, Mike. It’s a four leaf clover. Fitting, but we have a feeling she won’t need luck. She’s ready. She’s been ready.

We wanted to get to know Myk, not just MyKayla Skinner, but Myk.

How do you stay focused when you're on the beam and everyone is calling your name?

Funny you ask that! When I was at Championships, I was on beam and someone startled me. At that moment, I had to say to myself, "You got this!" At the Olympic Trials, I went through my routine so many times in my mind to prepare, that I really didn't even notice the noise. I just keep my mind focused and told myself to push through.

Do you have a particular song that motivates you?

Yes! The Climb by Miley Cyrus. 

After a significant competition, how do you relax and reward yourself?

I’ll usually go out to dinner and have pizza and ice cream!

What’s your favorite song right now?

I love country music so it would have to be anything from Carrie Underwood. I went to her concert not that long ago, and I just love her. I love the way she lives her life. She’s so positive, happy and fun. She’s an amazing example.”

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If you could go back and talk to your 14-year-old self, what would you say?

I’m so proud of you for pushing through those hard times, just look at how much you’ve accomplished! I’m so proud of you for finishing high school! (Most elite gymnasts don’t finish.) 

What were you feeling when you did that little dance after you finished the floor exercise at the Olympic Trials?

I always do these little dances at practice. (As she giggles). The girls love to laugh about it. I was last up on floor, and they said if you nail it, then you have to do one of your little dances. (As she giggles again).

You have a lot of young fans out there with dreams of being an Olympian one day. What advice would you give them?

Being a gymnast isn’t easy. You’ll have hard days, but keep going. Keep a positive attitude no matter what, and NEVER give up. 

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13.

Last words…

There are so many people out there who will tell you that you can’t, and what you’ve got to do is turn it around and say watch me!!

 

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synchronized swimmers

While the first synchronized swimming competition was recorded in the late 1800s in Berlin, synchro wasn’t recognized as an Olympic sport until the 1984 Summer Olympic games. Involving swimming, dance, and gymnastics, synchronized swimming routines are choreographed to music and are truly amazing to behold. The graceful sport looks effortless, but requires what seems like a never-ending training schedule. As such, beautiful synchronized swimmer Anita Alvarez, is one busy person! Anita and her teammate, Victoria Woroniecki, are hard at work to prepare for the rigorous upcoming synchro schedule where they will represent Team USA in the summer championship duet competition.

Twenty-year-old Anita filled us in on her intense training schedule: In the months leading up to big competitions (like now), she and Victoria begin their day at 7 o'clock in the morning and end at 5 o'clock. They spend an hour and half doing various cross-training activities, including Pilates and weight training, and besides a quick lunch, they are in the pool the rest of the day doing speed swims for endurance and practicing their routines. I asked her if she ever dreaded going in the water over and over, and she shared that sometimes just diving in can be the hardest part. She finds motivation in thinking about how hard she has worked and how far she has come; She now finds herself a role model for younger swimmers – the type of swimmer she used to look up to!

Anita’s mother is a synchronized swim coach, so she was always surrounded by synchro. After trying other sports, she found herself drawn back to synchro because it combines everything she loves - swim, dance, gymnastics. Though she is currently enjoying competing at a high level, she found early on that she also loves to perform! Once choreographed by others, routines have shifted over time to be more of a collaborative effort between athletes and coaches. Anita shares that routines feel more natural when coaches and swimmers work together. Routines are inherently dynamic and change constantly based on feedback from coaches and judges after competitions; It will never look the same from beginning to end and will be fine-tuned even on the day of a competition.

In addition to the physical aspect of competition, synchro swimmers are also performers, and definitely dress the part. Instead of swim caps, they create a “wet look” by using clear gelatin to slick back their hair – once hardened, the gelatin creates a surface for ornate headpieces. Makeup is dramatic and of course, waterproof . Lastly, they don a fantastic competition suit. This process helps to tame Anita's nerves as just sitting around makes her anxious. She also finds that practice is a major way she keeps from getting nervous. Being prepared keeps her motivated and confident, which she needs to keep her work looking effortless and fun – judges can tell when you are nervous!

Anita has very little downtime as, in addition to all of the training, she has physical therapy and works (yep, she works)! College is on hold right now so she can focus more on competition. However, many of the younger athletes will take classes online so that they can be more flexible with training. Anita says she particularly loves the travel involved in competition because she enjoys seeing different cultures. While she has little time to do touristy sightseeing, she enjoys trying new foods, picking up a few words in a new language, and realizing new ways of life. She would love to go back to visit several countries when not competing including Italy and stop by some she has yet to visit like Australia.

We can't wait to cheer Anita and her partner Victoria on this summer! Follow their successes on www.teamusa.org and @usasynchr

 

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