Sophomore Swims to Junior Olympic Glory


Courtesy of Meraquas of Irvine

Niki Szekely and partner Emma Thullen perform a doubles routine.

Maryam Shama, Opinion Editor

Gold medalist and sophomore Niki Szekely is a synchronized swimmer who participated in and won the most recent Junior Olympics. For eight years she has been training and competing continuously while balancing her academic and social life.

Synchronized swimming is an individual as well as group sport in which swimmers execute coordinated movements in the water, similar to a mix of swimming and gymnastics. Her duet partner Emma Thullen and coach Candace Hipp describe the expectations when competing at the Junior Olympic level.

You need determination. If you don’t have self discipline and self determination, you won’t accomplish the goal of being on a Junior Olympic team of any sport. It takes extra work to accomplish this goal if you start at a high school age,” Hipp said.

The continuous effort her team, Meraquas of Irvine, has put in its training paid off by winning gold at the 2017 Junior Olympics. However, to get to that level and achieve accomplishments like Szekely has, it requires constant hard work and sacrifice.

“What we do is not easy, and it does not come very naturally for many of us. Every Junior Olympian has to sacrifice a lot to be where they are and win,” Thullen said.

Perseverance is a key attribute that is necessary in every Junior Olympic athlete in order to compete at that level. Niki pushes through at every practice by attending additional private lessons and perfecting any aspect she is lacking in.

“I think working hard and learning how to balance your life, school and social life is important…[In majority of sports], sometimes it gets really hard and you just want to quit..but because I’ve had a lot of those times where [I think] ‘why am I even doing this’ I look back and see how far I’ve come and then I think back to the times where I have gotten first place or I have gotten a gold medal and think how good that felt knowing that my hard work has finally payed off,” Szekely said.