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Recent grad echoes coach’s advice; inspires youth to ‘reach for the sky’

Through a megaphone on the Fresno State Aquatics Center pool deck, head swimming and diving coach Jeanne Fleck encourages the young backstrokers to “reach for the sky.”

“Come, come, come,” he said. “Try to be as tall as you can.”

It’s good advice, said Darina Khisiamova, a former Fresno State swimmer and one of several swim coaches on the pool deck this week, who, like Fleck, is passionate about teaching kids to swim. “My favorite thing is to help them get better,” he said. “I can see they can be very good swimmers in the future.”

Recent graduate Darina Khisiamova, a standout on the Fresno State swimming and diving team, plans to pursue a master’s degree in exercise science. (Photos by Cary Edmondson)

Khisiamova, a native of Moscow, Russia and recent graduate of Fresno State, works as part of a community partnership between Fresno State athletics and the Fresno Unified School District. Throughout June and July, Fresno Unified students had the opportunity to participate in summer enrichment programs at no cost to their families.

Fresno State coaches and athletes like Ksiamova have shared their expertise at camps in basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field and swimming and diving. Camps for young engineers and esports enthusiasts were also offered as part of the Fresno Unified partnership, which includes the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Break the Barriers and the Fresno Discovery Center, among a dozen others.

Because so many kids in Fresno summers spend time in and around the water, swim camp is one of the most popular. Khisiamova, who as a junior was the Mountain West Conference champion in the 1650 freestyle and holds the Bulldog record in the 400 individual medley.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Khisiamova said of her time swimming at Fresno State. “I’ve always been very competitive.”

According to Fleck, Khisiamova had to harness that competitive spirit just to stay in the United States after graduation. “She’s worked very hard to support herself,” Fleck said. “He had to give swimming lessons to make enough money to survive.”

Khisiamova has often driven her scooter or taken an Uber to participants’ homes since she doesn’t have a car, which she hopes to have enough money for by August. She has also worked at Hoover High School as a club swim coach and just recently secured a position as an instructor with Orangetheory Fitness, part of the Optional Training Internship, a one-year work permit available to F-1 international students who have full-time students for at least two consecutive semesters and plan to seek employment in the United States in their fields of study.

“I want to continue my career in strength conditioning coaching,” Khisiamova said. “I plan to go to Fresno State for a master’s degree in exercise science.”

For now, the would-be graduate student has continued to grind and teach young swimmers and has grown very close to her family at Fresno State during this time of war and turmoil in her home country. Friends and teammates — especially Ukrainian diver Yuliya Tykha — have checked in with her regularly to “make sure [she’s] all good.”

As a junior, Darina Khisiamova was the Mountain West champion in the 1650 freestyle and holds the Bulldog record in the 400 individual medley. (Photos by Cary Edmondson)

As a junior, Darina Khisiamova was the Mountain West champion in the 1650 freestyle and holds the Bulldog record in the 400 individual medley. (Photos by Cary Edmondson)

“We reach out to each other,” Khisiamova said of Tykha. “When this all started happening, we talked and supported each other every day.”

Ultimately, Khisiamova said she wants to earn her citizenship and stay in the U.S. forever. She also hopes to one day bring her family here. “It’s been hard,” she said of being so far from her parents, with whom she keeps in touch via text, What’sApp and FaceTime, since all social media outside of Russia has been cut off.

Some days, Khisiamova will tell you, her dreams seem far away. But she’s committed to them, often reminding herself as she coaches young swimmers how important it is to push forward and, in her coach’s words, “reach, reach, reach for the sky.”

Recent grad echoes coach’s advice; inspires youth to ‘reach for the sky’ Source link Recent grad echoes coach’s advice; inspires youth to ‘reach for the sky’

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