My experience growing up in Venezuela was really awesome! I still remember the times when I grew up in Maracay as the happiest years of my life. I was born and raised in a small city called Maracay located near the Caribbean coast. It gave me and my sister the perfect childhood experience.
I started swimming when I was 6 years old and that was because my parents love to go to the beach and they were afraid that me and my sister could drown, but also because my parents wanted us to be healthy children. I still remember my first swim meet – I was 8 years old and my mom told me “If you win a medal I will take you to McDonald’s” (I loved McDonald’s, I still do.) In Venezuela only rich people can eat at McDonald’s because it is really expensive. Anyway, I did not win my first swim meet and I was so sad because all I really wanted was to go to McDonald’s. In the end, my mom took me there anyway just because she saw that I put in a lot of effort!
I will never forget my experience swimming in Venezuela! I qualified for my first Olympic Games, Beijing 2008, when I was training in my country. Venezuela is a third-world country. Pools do not work like they work here in the USA. I remember going to the pool many times and finding the pool really green because there was not money to pay for products to keep the pool clean. So those days my team and I did dryland and sometimes we could not train at all. I remember one time that the pool did not work for 3 months and we had to do just dryland during the week and swim in the ocean on the weekends. In the end, that did not stop me from achieving my goal – to swim at the Olympic Games!
Tell us about your experience swimming in the Olympic Games – twice!
Swimming in 2 Olympic Games is like no other experience. When I qualified for my first Olympic Games I was overcome with emotion. There was joy, tears, pride, shock and relief. I could not believe that my dream came true! I remember that day I did not want to go to sleep because I was afraid that it was just a dream. I think between Beijing and London, Beijing was more exciting. I was focused only on cutting my time and learning from the best.
My second qualification to an Olympic Games was a little bit different! I qualified in the last moment in the last swim meet. I was so stressed with a lot of pressure because I could not believe that I went to the Olympic Games before and that I could not qualify for my second. I decided to try Open Water because I was so far away from the cuts in the pool (like 10 seconds) and I only had 1 year to cut all of that time. Open Water is not about time, only the best 25 in the world can swim at the Olympics. There are two qualification meets. The first one is 1 year before the Olympics and the second one is 2 months before the Olympics. I went to the 2nd qualification meet only 2 months away from London! At the meet, only the first 15 qualify. I was #15!
I really enjoyed racing in London! First, because my mom, sister and my dad were there, and second because we swam in a lake where anyone could watch you swim for free and I remember breathing on side and watching my mom, dad, and my sister cheering for me!
What’s the most important thing you learned from swimming that you have applied to your life?
I learned a lot! One of them is that every hundredth matters. You can lose a gold medal by just one one-hundredth and that is 4 years of training. I use this for everything! I always try to be on time and take advantage of every second. Another thing is that I don’t give up easily. Life is not easy! Sometimes you have a good day or sometimes you have a bad day – same with swimming! Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Every time I lost a competition, I always got up and looked to see what I could do better and tried again. I apply this in my life every time I have a bad day. I also learned the rule of 3D (discipline, dedication, and desire) – with this you can achieve everything in life!
How has your experience at the highest levels of swimming helped prepare you to coach the White Group?
My passion since I was little is swimming. Water was part of my life and I felt like there was a connection with it. I swam for 18 years and I was part of the Venezuelan National Team for 11 years. Having said that, I feel like I know so much about swimming that I want to share, which is why I want to share my experiences and teach the future of NAC swimming everything that I have learned from swimming – hopefully that gives us better swimmers!
NAC’s philosophy is based around long-term development and a commitment to the process of improvement. From your perspective, why is this so important for our athletes and parents to understand?
Swimming gives you so many benefits. If a child starts at an early age, the chances of becoming an excellent athlete can be greater. The process of becoming an Olympian, or even successful, is long-term and requires a lot of consistency, dedication, patience and trust in the coaches. It takes 4 years to train for an Olympic Games, and we are talking about professional athletes that have been swimming for their whole lives, so imagine how long this can take for someone that has just started swimming.