Young Swimming Champion
Eight-year-old Celi Guzman already collecting gold medals
Celi Guzman, 8, displays the medals she recently won during national swimming competitions in Puerto Rico. (Photo Courtesy Shelby Fallin)
If you take a look at 8-year-old Celismar Guzman, she doesn't seem at all formidable. That is until you see her in the water. Guzman is a gold-medal winning competitive swimmer who trains in Brandon, Florida, at the Brandon Sports and Aquatics Center. And, no, that 8 is not a typo. She is E-I-G-H-T!
Guzman has been swimming for only 18 months, but already she's a force to be reckoned with in the water. She was recently named Puerto Rican National Swimming Champion in her age group and has her sights on the 2016 Olympics.
Her swim coach, Morag Betz, explained that Guzman, known as Celi, worked her way up from a swim lesson program to the Pre-Competitive program, and finally to the first level swim team, the Blue Wave.
"She is truly a complete program success story," Betz said. "Celi didn’t start as a champion. She had to work her way up through practice."
The youngster says she swims because she enjoys it. She practices six days a week for two hours each day.
"It is a lot of hard work, but it's fun," she said. "You need to practice a lot."
Swimming for Gold
Guzman recently won big in competition in Puerto Rico. She competed in the 100m freestyle, 50m backstroke, 50m butterfly, 50m breaststroke, and 50m freestyle. She came home with four gold medals and one bronze. The bronze was in the 50m breaststroke.
She also recently competed in the Junior Olympics.
"I did fine in all the strokes but in the 100m freestyle," she said of the experience. "I cut four seconds off my time. Now I am second in the whole United States for my age group."
Guzman is proud of her accomplishments. She is also proud of her Hispanic heritage.
"I can speak both languages, both English and Spanish, so I can help the Spanish community," she told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.
Celi's family celebrates many of the traditional American holidays, but with a Spanish twist. They celebrate Christmas and Three Kings Day, the last day of the 12 days of Christmas. At Thanksgiving they have pork, Spanish mashed potatoes, flan (a Spanish dessert), and pasteles, which is like a chicken wrap.
Sports are as much a part of her family as her Hispanic background. Both of her parents participated in competitive sports in Puerto Rico.
One of Guzman's role models in swimming is silver Olympic medalist Maritza Carreia. A picture of Carreia hangs in the center where Guzman trains.
"She is Hispanic just like me," Guzman said. "A few months ago one of our coaches introduced me to her. She used to train in this sports center as a girl just like me and at the same age."
So what comes next for this 8-year-old wonder in the water?
"I plan to go to the 2016 Olympics," she said. You can bet the Scholastic Kids Press Corps will be watching!
To read more Hispanic Heritage Month stories, click here.
Shelby Fallin is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.