By Daniela Fiestas-Paredes
I did not grow up swimming like most competitive swimmers.
In fact, I started swimming at the age of six, but by age 10 I decided to quit.
Last spring, I decided to enroll in an intermediate swimming class in order to lose some weight. The first day of class, the team coach Phong Pham saw me and invited me to join the school swimming team.
At first, I was not sure if I should try it because I had been out of the water. For over 13 years I did not do anything. No exercises, no swimming, no weight training, nothing. I was very out of shape.
I started my 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:30.24, and my 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:56.98.
I constantly felt intimidated by other swimmers since they have been swimming their whole lives, and I hadn’t been swimming long. Their swimming had strength, perfect technique and great endurance. Seeing them constantly made me feel worried and very insecure about myself. All the experience they had—and that I was lacking—made me feel so overwhelmed and so nervous. I would constantly compare myself to them.
All these feelings made me forget how good I actually was, and how good I have been doing with only seven months of training.
I only had one goal for the season: get a medal on either my 100- or 200-yard breaststroke.
I was so surprised when I touched that wall and saw the board say “Lane 6: 3.”
Next came the unexpected: the official sheet listing qualifying swimmers for the 2016 Swimming and Diving California State Championships.
To be honest, I never thought I was going to be able to make it to the State Championships.
I saw the State Championships as something I could not accomplish since all the girls that I had been swimming with were so fast.
And there I was, swimming with the fastest girls in the State Championships. Despite my previously bad technique, lack of endurance, slow turns, non-straight line underwater and bad diving, there I was, swimming with the fastest girls who would beat me by a whole 25 yards just last season.
My time for the 100-yard backstroke now is 1:11.54, and my 200-yard breaststroke is 2:34.20. I dropped 19 seconds off my 100-yard breaststroke, and 22 seconds off my 200-yard breaststroke in a period of 7 months.
I am temporarily satisfied with those times but I am already craving for more.
This has not been easy, getting used to working out to eating healthier to swimming two or three hours a day Monday through Saturday.
I am happy and so proud of myself for getting so far in such a short amount of time. I am thrilled to know I am among the fastest college-level breaststrokers in California.
I am also delighted to have been offered the opportunity to keep improving my swimming next year, but this time for Mills College at the National Collegiate Athletics Association Division III program.
I will always be thankful to my City College coach Phong Pham for always being there for me. I could not have accomplished all of this without him. He always kept pace with my frustrations by encouraging me to keep going regardless of the pain, soreness, tiredness and personal struggles that I felt throughout the last two seasons.
Everything he said will always be remembered. He helped me grow and become a better person, as well as the best swimmer I could be at this moment.
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Send an email to: Daniela Fiestas-Paredes