Sugar Land teenagers Ellie Wang and Alex Fu were recently judged to be two of the most prolific swimmers in their respective regions by USA Swimming.
Both are now hoping to take their recent experiences at select virtual regional workshops to pursue goals both in and out of the pool.
The 14-year-old Wang, who attends a boarding school out of state but has been working with FCST, took part in the Regional Diversity Select Performance Campon July 9, which aimed to “empower athletes to demonstrate the viability of multicultural success in swimming,” among other principles such as leadership skills.
Selection to the workshop is viewed as a potential stepping stone toward representing the United States on a national stage. Wang said the virtual workshop helped shine a light on the need for more minority representation in the sport.
USA Swimming's website said less than 10 percent of its current membership is African American, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American and others.
“FCST is probably one of the most diverse swim teams out there. We’re all from different places and are different races – it’s really nice to be able to see that every day, so I feel lucky,” Wang said. “But for other areas, it’s important to have that same diversity.”
To qualify for the camp, Wang had to achieve at least one AAA National Motivational Time as judged by USA Swimming standards in sanctioned events.
“That short course season really made me think this is something I could excel at. I was doing really well and dropping a lot of time,” said Wang. “It felt really good to see my work recognized."
Fu, a Clements High School senior, participated in USA Swimming’s virtual Zone Select Camp in May. Each zone's camp consisted of 34 athletes from each competition category through USA Swimming’s SWIMS database based on 2019 and 2020 Long Course Meters (LCM) combined IMX point scores. The fastest two available athletes in each zone in each LCM Olympic and USA Swimming-sanctioned events from January 2019 to August 2020 were invited. Fifteen-year-old Mason Ramsower was also selected for the Zone camp.
Leaders from youth organizations More Brave and Growing Leaders spoke with swimmers at the Zone camp, covering topics such as perseverance and powering through obstacles according to Fu. He also noted that he, along with many others, lived through situations that applied the teachings even before the workshop such as COVID-19.
“One of the bigger things I took away from it was determination,” Fu said. “There are always going to be obstacles in your way, and you’ve got to find a way to push through them and make the best out of bad situations. You’ve got to keep your eyes on the goal moving forward.”
Wang echoed the sentiment.
“I had to work a lot harder this year to find the motivation and keep grinding every day. It’s all about the process, and this year has been a determining one in my swimming career,” she said. “Even though it’s been rough, it’s been a valuable lesson.”
Eyes on the future
Moving ahead, both local swimmers have their eyes on bigger dreams in the pool in light of lessons learned from their camp experiences.
Wang, who is Asian-American, is enrolled at a boarding school in New England. However, she has been swimming with FCST as she learns remotely throughout COVID-19 and said events such as last week’s workshop can only grow the sport.
“It empowers these groups of people, because we need to have diversity in our sport,” she said. “It’s really important in encouraging those groups of people in underrepresented communities to stay motivated through swimming.”
Fu’s dream is to go as far as swimming will take him. He will swim at the University of Pennsylvania next fall while enrolling in the university’s business school, but said representing the U.S. on an international stage remains in the back of his mind.
“It would be really nice to do so – it’s a bit of a far-fetched goal right now, but those are the types of goals you need to have in your life,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to dream big and push toward the goals you really want.”