CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — For one group of swimmers, their Olympic dreams went through Christiansburg. Athletes from all over the map, from Bulgaria to Egypt, made the New River Valley their second home before making the trip to Japan.
“I think when I first got here, I was very star struck to say the least,” swimmer Krystal Lara said.
The New York-native has good reason to be. The pool at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center has been filled with Olympians from all over the world, training for the Tokyo Games.
“Pretty much having the Olympics every day here, you get to race them pretty much because they’re so fast,” Egyptian swimmer Farida Osman said. “So you get to learn their strengths and weaknesses and try to improve on yours.”
Osman is on her way to her third Olympics. And like everyone else in the pool at the CAC, they’re there for one reason: to train with Virginia Tech head coach Sergio Lopez Miro.
“Just having Sergio as a coach. This is why everyone, all the people from different countries came to Blacksburg to train because he is one of the best coaches and everyone wants to be part of his training group,” Osman said.
Lopez Miro is a two-time Olympian himself. But he’s made a bigger name for himself as a swim coach, training over a dozen Olympic hopefuls in Christiansburg.
“I have a little bit of a history coaching athletes at that level so when I came here, a lot of people wanted to come here,” Lopez Miro said.
That included Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling, who grew to international fame when he beat Michael Phelps at the 2016 Rio Olympics to win gold in the 100-meter butterfly.
“There are so many Olympians around. It sounds almost pedestrian. You’re just like, ‘Oh this guy is going to the Olympics. Oh that guy is going to the Olympics.’ But if you look at the big picture, it’s kind of amazing, isn’t it?” Schooling said. “All of these Olympians gathered in this small town of Christiansburg, Blacksburg, training for the Olympics. That’s wild man.”
Eight Tokyo-bound swimmers from seven different countries have connections to the Hokies training program Lopez Miro created. It’s making Christiansburg a hotbed for Olympic medal hopefuls.
“It’s given our university good recognition in the swimming world and it’s helping with recruiting,” Lopez Miro said. “And yeah, I’m excited, I feel lucky we could do this.”
As for Lara, who will represent the Dominican Republic in Tokyo, she’s no longer star struck.
“Now that I’ve been here for a couple months, I know them. They’re people. They’ve accomplished a lot,” Lara said. “They’re people, they’re swimmers, I train with them every day.”
Detouring through Christiansburg
These Olympic swimmers trained with Virginia Tech head coach Sergio Lopez Miro in Christiansburg before heading to Tokyo.
- Santo Condorelli (Italy)
- Antani Ivanov (Bulgaria)
- Krystal Lara (Dominican Republic)
- Farida Osman (Egypt)
- Youssef Ramadan (Egypt)
- Joseph Schooling (Singapore)
- Anton McKee (Iceland)
- Ian Ho (Hong Kong)
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