WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
July 19, 2012
No matter how many Olympics a swimmer competes in, the emotions never change.
Arlene Semeco will make her third Olympic appearance for Venezuela when the swimming competition begins July 28th in London. She has qualified in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events.
The 28-year-old South American and Venezuelan national record holder may be older and wiser, but she is just as excited as she was when she made her first Olympic team in 2004.
“The first Olympics I can tell you nothing about it,” said Semeco, who trains at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex with the South Florida Aquatic Club.
“I can remember nothing. I was so freaked out. The second time I held back because I was coming off a shoulder injury.
“Now this time around I have more experience. I know what to expect. I know what to prepare for once I am there. That is an advantage. I have two Olympics under my sleeve. I have the experience.
“The fact that I have qualified for three Olympics shows how much pride I take in my swimming and how hard I worked.”
Semeco is in the best shape she’s been in since she started swimming at age 9 in Valencia, Venezuela dreaming about the Olympics. She has been injury-free and training well with Coral Springs Swim Club head coach Bruno Darzi for the past two years.
“I think I am in the best shape of my life,” Semeco said. “I really don’t feel sluggish in any way in any area. Thank God this time I have no injury and it’s been possible for me to get myself in prime shape. The last time I had shoulder surgery in January before the Olympics. This time there is no injuries. I have been training for two straight years. Now I can show what I can do.”
Semeco was injured during her training for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She needed reconstructive surgery eight months before the Games. She rehabbed and was able to return to the pool sooner than expected.
Semeco is funded by her swim federation which allows her to train full-time and work on her master’s degree in food and nutrition at Florida International University. She has two bachelor degrees from Alabama in human environment sciences and food and nutrition.
“Venezuela is super supportive,” Semeco said. “I have been fortunate to get their support. I am able to swim and train and take this as a job. I am doing my best athletically and academically.”
A University of Alabama graduate, Semeco represented Venezuela at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece and 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. She has won gold medals at the Pan American Games, South American Championships and National Championships and various other meets.
She was an All-American and school record holder at University of Alabama, where she was the fastest swimmer in the 50 freestyle. She competed in the 50 and 100 freestyles at the NCAA Championships. She has also been the Venezuela Female Swimmer of the Year several times.
This year Semeco has done well internationally, nationally and locally. On Tuesday, she had her last double workout at Coral Springs. She is going into her third Olympics mentally relaxed, she said.
“I actually want to take it as another meet,” Semeco said. “I don’t want to freak out. I am sure it will hit me once I get there, after I see the facility and all the people. I am just trying to relax and take it easy like any other meet. I have to remember I know everybody who is going there. I know everyone has prepared as much as I have.
“I want to enjoy the moment. It is definitely a different experience moreso than any other meet. It’s one to remember. I don’t want to get there with many expectations. I don’t want to be disappointed if I don’t do what I want to do.”
Experience will be her biggest ally when she steps on the blocks.
“I have definitely gotten smarter with each Olympics,” Semeco said. “It’s definitely been learn as you go. I know everyone has been working hard for the Olympics but so have I.”
Semeco will think about her future after the Olympics. She would like to finish her masters work and internship.
“I am definitely in love with swimming, I can never fall out of love with swimming,” Semeco said. “It’s definitely not in stone what I am going to do in the future. I would definitely like to plan my life. I will decide after the Olympics whether to keep going or shift my attention.
“I am proud of not only what I accomplished but the way I took every single meet. The last two years I had little setbacks with times and it took a toll on me mentally. After I got out of that stage of not improving I trained as much as I could, beating my body up. I know I did everything possible these last two years. I have no regrets.”
Before heading to London on July 25th, Semeco will join her Venezuelan teammates for a five-day training camp in Barcelona, Spain.
Once in London, Semeco will share the pool deck with SOFLO teammates Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Vlad Polyakov of Kazakhstan, both three-time Olympians, and former Coral Springs Swim Club swimmer Nick Schwab making his Olympic debut for the Dominican Republic. Atkinson had a training camp in London while Polyakov went to Belarus for a pre-Olympic camp.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com