Nicole Sullivan and Victoria Alvarez hope to go to the Olympics one day. Not as spectators, but as competitors.
“It’s where I want to go when I get good enough,” Sullivan said.
And that’s why the two girls, along with many other young swimmers, attended the Fitter & Faster Swim Tour Saturday at the Cumming Aquatic Center.
The swimmers got to meet and take lessons from Olympic silver medalist Lacey Nymeyer and Josh Schneider, national record holder and expected 2012 Olympic competitor.
Nymeyer shared her experiences with participants, from her failures at other athletic endeavors to her successes as a swimmer, which she said she pursued because she loves to race.
“When you stand up on [the block], you’re all alone. No coach. No friends. No family,” she said. “It is only you. And that is awesome. That is a sense of empowerment and control … you are supposed to have fun and you are supposed to set your own goals.”
Saturday’s event was part of a national tour, where professional athletes travel across the country training young athletes. Local swimmers registered for the event earlier this year and Alvarez said she was glad she did.
“You look up to them more and they have more experience,” she said. “The fact that they’ve been there — and we have a dream to do the same thing — it’s kind of an honor to meet people like that.”
The tour was designed to encourage children, said event manager Magda Waszkiewicz.
“It’s basically to inspire the kids and motivate them, show them swimming is fun and have them learn new things from Olympians,” she said.
“You can see [pro basketball player] Kobe Bryant on TV every day. And these kids work so hard in a pool and they don’t get a chance to see their heroes, other swimmers, besides the Olympics. So we want to bring that to kids and show them that those Olympians are also real people.”
Schneider worked with the young athletes on drills, first talking with them and then demonstrating before they practiced what they learned.
The most useful tip, he said, was the gorilla drill, which he said is the reason he “went from good to great in one day.”
“I swim against some of the fastest guys in the world,” he said. “They’re all working on the same drill I just showed you here today.”
While the tour is a paid gig for the athletes, Schneider said being a part of it brings back memories of his own childhood.
“It’s fun being in the position where you’re able to give back,” he said. “I’ve gone to clinics and whatnot when I was growing up and I always idolized the people that did it. And so now I’m the one in the position to do that and it’s really fun.
“You try to motivate them and get them excited about swimming, get them e xcited about drills and try to give them a tip here and there, because they’re not going to remember everything you teach them. But if they can walk away with one or two little tips, then I would consider it a success.”