Olympic hopeful talks with young swimmers at YMCA

EVERETT — Third-grader Diana Kulik watched as the two-time world swimming champion demonstrated how to do a bob in the pool.

After Ariana Kukors surfaced, the Hawthorne Elementary School student held her breath and eagerly ducked under the water.

The girl popped back up and received a smile and congratulations from the Olympic hopeful.

Kukors, 22, a five-time World Championship medalist who grew up in Auburn, visited the Everett YMCA on Wednesday afternoon. She joined a swim class and then signed swim caps designed with her last name and the American flag on them for fans. The swimmer holds the world record in the 200-meter long course individual medley.

Diana, 9, wasn’t concerned with world records on Wednesday, but she did ask for Kulik’s help.

“I asked her to teach me how to swim fast,” she said.

Diana’s classmate, Jessica Clark, said she loved having Kukors swim with her.

Learning to swim as well as Kukors would take “lots of years” the girl said after watching the swimmer demonstrate her freestyle. She will be rooting for her if Kukors makes it to the Olympics games this summer in London.

“I want her to win a gold,” she said.

Kukors will have to make the U.S. team first. The Olympic Swimming Trials are set for June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb. This will be the second time Kukors has swam in the Olympic trials. She just missed out on making the team during the 2008 Olympic Trials.

Kukors said she felt anxious four years ago and feels much differently this time around.

“Even though I wanted to make the Olympic team then, I don’t know if I thought that I really could,” she said. “So this time around I feel very prepared. I’ve had a lot of great international experience in the last four years. I’m calm and confident, which I think is the most important thing for me.”

Kukors spends much of her time training in Florida. Her six-day-a-week training schedule includes swimming three to five hours daily, running, Pilates and weightlifting.

She is sponsored by telephone company Frontier Communications, which brought her to the Everett YMCA.

Kukors took her first swimming lessons at the Auburn YMCA and on this visit home, said she was happy to come spend time at the Everett YMCA.

“I love being back here and being able to hang out at the YMCA with the kids,” she said. “This is the best thing that I could possibly do: being able to use my platform to reach kids and inspire them and encourage them to get outside and play.”

Skylar Johnson, 11, a student at Cascade View Elementary in Snohomish, waited in line to receive a signed swim cap from Kukors. The young swimmer said the cap will definitely stay out of the pool and instead hang on a wall in her room. She asked Kukors what her goal was for the Olympics.

“She said her first goal was to make it and that her second goal was to win a medal,” Skylar said.

Cascade High School swimmer A.J. Jenkins, 17, brought his Stingray Swim Club cap with him for Kukors to sign. He swims the 200-meter individual medley as one of his competitive events and plans to continue his swimming career after high school.

“I’m going to do collegiate (swimming) and hopefully make Olympic Trials,” he said.

Kukors said she’s also a big goalsetter and lets herself think about winning an Olympic medal.

“At the end of the day it’s me and the bottom of the pool and two lane lines,” she said. “I just want to stay in my lane and if it means a medal it would be the most exciting thing, but I just want to make sure that I walk away with no regrets.”

Fans at the YMCA took pictures with Kukors, wished her luck and told her they would be watching for her on television.

Her older sister, Emily, watched Kukors swim and then sign autographs. The Auburn woman said she is proud of her sister.

“We’re a swimming family but we’re also a family period so we’re proud of her right now and if she is Olympian in a few more months, we’re going to be just as proud,” she said.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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