Margaret Zhu, a sixth-grader at Tyee Middle School, was one of 10 synchronized swimmers to compete for the Under-12 United States National Team at the Union Americana de Natación Pan American Artistic Swimming Championships in Windsor, Ontario in August.
Zhu won the silver medal in the duet event and the bronze medal in the team event.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Zhu said. “And you get to make a lot of new friends from across the country and some from other countries.”
Zhu said she had to overcome her nerves at a large tournament while competing in an unfamiliar pool. When they weren’t competing, she said they would train in the pool to get to know the pool better.
“That’s probably the biggest competitions I’ve ever been to,” Zhu said. “It felt good to be representing the U.S. on the podium.”
During the season, Zhu normally swims between four and six times each week with the Seattle Synchronized Swimming Team. While attending national team training camp, Zhu said she was swimming every day for about eight hours.
“Camp was really challenging,” Zhu said. “But it was also really fun.”
She wasn’t the only local representative on the under-12 team. Amy Wang, a seventh-grader at Tyee Middle School, also competed in Canada, and Zhu said it helped to have a teammate from her club team also compete with the national team.
Zhu was introduced to the sport by a family friend who did synchronized swimming. She tried the sport for the first time at a swimming summer camp, but it took some time for her to have fun in the pool.
“At first, I hated it,” Zhu said. “Then at the end of the week, I thought it was OK. I started doing it (at the novice level) and then I started liking it more and more.”
Zhu said her favorite part about synchronized swimming is making lifelong friends, having fun and travelling to new places. Along with competing in Canada, Zhu has also gone to New York, Ohio and Las Vegas for competitions. As she begins her fifth year of synchronized swimming, she hopes to continue to improve and keep having fun.
“If you don’t enjoy it, there’s really no point in doing it,” Zhu said.