Olympian Brings Golden Message To Young Students

2012 Olympic synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva tells third graders to work hard, be courageous and never give up

Mariya Koroleva in a third grade classroom at Lafayette Elementary School
Mariya Koroleva in a third grade classroom at Lafayette Elementary School
You can be an Olympian in your everyday life.

That's the message Olympic synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva brought to students at Lafayette Elementary School on Thursday.

Koroleva, who finished 11th in the duets competition at the 2012 London Games, spoke to two classes Thursday at the elementary school.

On Friday, she will talk at her former school, Murwood Elementary in Walnut Creek.

In Lauryn Marinho's third grade class on Thursday morning, Koroleva first told the youngsters about the Olympics and synchronized swimming.

The 23-year-old Concord resident told them a person must be courageous to be an Olympian.

She related that to her own experience of emigrating from Russia when she was 9 years old and going into a classroom when she didn't know any English.

"School was very, very difficult for me," she said.

Koroleva, who was a member of the Walnut Creek Aquanuts, said she went into synchronized swimming because she loved gymnastics and swimming but also because it helped her learn English.

"I want to encourage you guys not to be afraid to try new things," she said. "You never know where something will take you."

Koroleva also told the students to never give up.

"Going to the Olympics is really a lot of work," she said. "If you want to be successful in anything, you have to keep going."

She also told the class that there is no substitute for hard work.

"No success is going to come easy," she said. "It's supposed to be challenging and it's supposed to be hard. Try to enjoy the challenge."

She said she learned a lot from her Olympic experience, not all of it related to her sport.

"Learning does not end in the classroom," she said.

Students asked Koroleva an array of questions.

Among them was how long she has to hold her breath underwater during competitions. Koroleva said it's not how long you hold your breath, it's how quickly you can move while not breathing.

Another asked if there was a hockey match between the United States and Russia, who would she root for. Koroleva said she wouldn't take sides and would root for both teams.

"Both countries are very, very important to me," she said.

And how long did she practice while training for the Olympics? Answer: Eight to 10 hours a day, six days a week.

Koroleva graduated from Stanford University in June with a degree in communications. She's now studying for a masters in sports management from the University of San Francisco.

She is still training but is uncertain at the moment if she'll try for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

She had plans to attend next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but her training and her classroom schedule just didn't allow for it.


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