This I know for sure: I have two real passions in life. Swimming came first, and cooking came second. And since swimming came first, it deserves a page all its own.
I first started swimming at age six for our local country club. At such a young age, I was undoubtedly encouraged into the water by my parents. However, I do have a memory of them asking me, “Sami, do you want to swim this summer?” They’ve never been forceful parents, always letting me have a say.
After a summer or two of “baby swimming,” I chose to end swimming for soccer. At that age, more of my friends were playing soccer, and I enjoyed the field more than the water. My dad was also always my assistant coach, one of my favorite childhood memories. Soccer brought me and my ultra-busy dad together, so I definitely preferred it to the pool.
Then, at age nine, I received two letters in the mail asking me to join different area swim teams. I felt like the most popular girl in school. After a little debate, I chose to join the team led by my favorite coach, WTY. During my first couple years of swimming, I saw insane results. My times improved every meet and I made close friendships with the team. More impressively, I broke many of our team’s former records for girls of my age. I began to consider my pool to be my second primary home.
I aged up to the eleven-twelve girls group and continued to improve, only then more slowly. As I became a more serious swimmer, I definitely planned to go to college with a swimming scholarship. I even vocally pondered the option of going to the Olympics. My family and I took trips to San Francisco and Destin to improve my technique and increase my strength in the water. I loved every minute of it. My family was very supportive, Mom cooked dinner after practice, at 10 pm, and Dad came to all of my meets and recorded my best times in his Palm Pilot.
During the summer before my seventh grade year, some major changes took place in my life. Although still in the same neighborhood, I moved to a different home. I left my utopian private school for the reality of public school. I also began to severely struggle with my eating habits. Despite my healthy body, my goal changed from healthy eating to losing weight. At the time, I viewed my strong, muscular physique as “fat.”
Consequently, my weight plummeted, and over the course of two years, I slowly dropped thirty pounds. I refused to eat most foods and became afraid of eating regular portions. Thus, my once highly competitive swimming status altered to a slow, tired stroke. I could no longer improve my times, and swimming became extremely difficult for me. The same summer, my older role models began to leave town for college.
I left my team when I was thirteen and took a break from racing for a year. Ever since, I’ve taken an entirely new approach to the pool. Now I swim for multiple small teams during odd seasons of the year. I’ve swam for three country clubs, two USA teams, and one high school team. In addition, I’ve practice with teams in Hawaii, Washington, and Wyoming while on vacation. When I’m not swimming for a team, I love to swim on my own.
Although I’ve never been as fast as I was when I was younger, I’m still a great swimmer. I love everything about the sport. The strongest friendships are built around the most painful practices. Physically, no other activity produces results as quickly for me. If you’re wondering about my weight, I’m still working to achieve my healthiest point. Thankfully though, through the most challenging parts of my adolescence I’ve always been able to find a pool. I now call swimming, “my therapy.”
I swim third in this race and I’m wearing a black and red suit with a white cap. It’s a 200 meter, freestyle relay. June 23, 2010.
This video is all me! I get second place every time, but at least you can see me swim. Also June 23, 2010.