By Susan Draper
As parents of a competitive swimmer, we had heard that attending the Olympic Swimming Trials is incredibly exciting because it allows the spectators to see the Olympic team as it is formed.
It was an amazing trip, one beyond our wildest dreams! Because we purchased a special package through the USA Swimming Foundation – partly the cost of the event tickets and partly a donation – we received numerous perks during our trip: We had an opportunity to sit with Rowdy Gaines as he announced events, took a behind the scenes tour of the broadcasting center, enjoyed both a fun swim with some Olympians and a cocktail hour with autograph opportunities, had ever-changing amazing event seats alongside USA Foundation members and/or Olympians plus much more. One day we had the unique opportunity to have lunch with some new Olympians.
Ariana Kukors was the absolute highlight of that lunch– she simply sparkles! She told us the most heartfelt story of the days leading up to her monumental swim, and described the exciting moment when she realized that she made one of the required top two spots to become an Olympian. We made an instant connection with her and, though we’ve only seen her twice since June of 2012, we’ve kept in close contact.
When we met Ariana she was already the world record holder for the 200 IM, set in the 2009 World Aquatic Championships in Rome. In addition to her Gold at that meet, she had also won a silver medal at the World Championships, and, based on her performance, was named the American Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine. That is pretty amazing, and in that fight for an Olympic team spot in 2012, she candidly told us that part of herself pep talk was to remind herself of the fact that she held the World Record. One of those spots was hers- she just had to swim her best to claim it.
Any age group swimmer knows that swimming your best time or achieving a personal best time can be a daunting task. There are no guarantees. It requires an efficient start, turns that are spot on, swimming one’s best strokes, the proper finish and the mental fortitude to pull it all together. Ariana has won seven medals in major international competition and 22 National Titles, but she isn’t the typical super tall swimmer with height on her side. She has developed some strong strategies and techniques to help make all of her talents – beautiful strokes and execution, along with utter determination and a belief in herself- come together to achieve her dreams.
It has been our dream to have Ariana here for a visit, and help coordinate events for both swimmers and non-swimmers alike. We are thrilled to announce that she will soon spend two days in Westchester, inspiring young athletes to be their very best: On September 26th from 4-6 p.m., Ariana will offer a “Dream Clinic” at the Bristal in Armonk. This event will be for teens from ages 12-18 looking for tips and strategies to make their dreams become realities.
On September 27th Ariana will offer swimming workshops in the pool at the Boys and Girls Club in Mt. Kisco. Because she would like to offer a very “hands on” clinic, there will be multiple timeslots – Novice swimmers 9-11:30 a.m., Junior level swimmers 12-2:30 p.m. and Senior level swimmers 3:-5:30 p.m.. To sign up for either of these events, please email Arikukors@gmail.com. Registration and payment ($45 for the Armonk/Bristal event, $65 for the Boys/Girls Club Mt. Kisco event) must be completed in advance.