Oct. 3, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - Senior synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva joined six other current students and student-athletes who competed at this summer's Olympic Games to recount their London experiences with the Bay Area media members, Tuesday, in the Arrillaga Family Sports Center.
Stanford will conclude its Olympic Heritage Celebration Saturday, Oct. 6 when the school will commemorate the achievements of current and past Cardinal athletes who have participated in the Olympian Games in a ceremony held at halftime of the Cardinal's 12 p.m. Homecoming football game against Arizona. More than 50 Olympians are confirmed to participate in the event including athletes from as far back as the 1956 Melbourne Games.
GoStanford.com sat down with Koroleva to talk about her experiences in London and what it has been like returning to Stanford for her final season with the Cardinal.
GoStanford: Describe your experience in London and what it meant to swim for your country at the Olympics.
MK: "It was a very cool experience overall. It was the culmination of all the hard work I have put in for the last 13 years. Swimming for that many people was incredible. Seeing the Olympic rings everywhere, it was amazing to see and know that you have reached the peak of athleticism.
"Being the only two synchronized swimmers from the United States was very humbling. We had to be good role models and present ourselves in a positive way."
GoStanford: You and your duet partner, Mary Killman, were recently named the USA Synchro Athletes of the Year. What was it like swimming with her?
MK: "We had swam together in the past on various national teams, but never as duet partners. We've been paired together for about a year, but in the middle of that was the Olympic trials and then I took some time off when I had back surgery, so the total training time was less than a year. For a synchro duet it was not as much time as people usually have. I do think we came together pretty quickly and established a good relationship.
"Leading up to the Games it was different because it was just us since the team didn't qualify. We lived together, trained together and were with each other 24/7. We had some ups and downs, but in the end we came together and did well. I think this Olympics is just the beginning of us swimming together."
GoStanford: Were you able to attend any other events while in London?
MK: Yes, I got see some of theU.S. women's water polo games. Melissa [Seidemann] is in my class, so I snuck in to some of those. I also got to go to their gold medal game. Annika [Dries]is my roommate this year, so I got to see her win the gold medal and that was so cool. Those kinds of moments make me want to keep swimming. We weren't on the podium, so it makes me want to get there at some point."
GoStanford: You took last year off from Stanford to train for the Olympics. What has it been like being back on campus as a student-athlete?
MK: "It is definitely a little bit of a transition right now. I am getting used to being back in a classroom and having homework. When you are training, you get to go home and that is it. Your job is done. Now, I have readjust to being a student again, but it is so good to be back. Even though my whole class is gone, which is a little bit depressing, I'm back with the synchro team and looking forward to this season."
GoStanford: What are your goals this season with Stanford synchro?
MK: "I think our whole team is going into this season with very high expectations. We have a really strong team. We have five girls coming back from the national team, a strong group of returners and three freshmen who will add to the team. I think we are going to go for it full force. Just in the last week, you can see that everyone is pushing themselves. It is a very positive atmosphere and Sara [Lowe], our head coach, and Megan [Azebu], our new assistant, having been doing a great job and rising to the challenge. I'm excited, I think it is going to be a really good season."
GoStanford: This is your last year at Stanford. Is there anything you would like to do before leaving?
MK: I am possibly considering a double major. I am finishing my communications major this quarter, so after that I have three more quarters to do whatever I want. I am considering another major or possibly a minor.
"I feel like even though I missed a year to prepare for the Olympics, I was also doing national team stuff as a freshman and sophomore. So, I feel like I haven't really gotten the whole student-athlete experience since I was travelling so much. I want that. I know it sounds weird, but I want to be a `normal' student-athlete. I want to be more involved with the team and my sorority. I just want to meet new people and enjoy the time I have left."