Dima Zaytsev, a 17-year-old competitive swimmer, was putting in extra training hours at the North Carolina swim training center SwimMAC last week when the unthinkable happened: Zaytsev nearly drowned. Swim coach Lindsay Treece spotted Zaytsev at the bottom of the pool and sprung into action.
"My hands were shaking from the adrenalin," Treece told NewsChannel 36. "I just kind of said, 'Okay, this is how I need to react. This is what needs to be done.'"
Treece, along with fellow coach Ryan Marklewitz, pulled Zaytsev out of the water, called 911, and worked to keep the swimmer alive until first responders arrived on the scene. While Zaytsev was hospitalized for several days, SwimMAC athletes wrote their teammate's initials on their arms and prayed for his health.
Fortunately, Zaytsev is now in good condition. He doesn't know what happened, but he believes he may have been using breath control, a technique that can lead swimmers to black out if not done carefully.
"It's possible I went too far, maybe I went too hard," he said.
Now in recovery, the swimmer says he has a new outlook on life. He told News Channel 36, "I've been calling all my friends and making sure that I appreciate every one of them. I feel like I got a second chance."
Fellow SwimMAC athlete Cullen Jones won a gold medal in Beijing and is now set to compete in London. As a young child, he nearly drowned at a water park as his mother, unable to swim, looked on helplessly. That experience inspired him to join forces with the Make a Splash Initiative, a national awareness campaign focused on teaching minority children how to swim.
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Take one look at Aly Raisman's floor routine -- a breathless 90 seconds of powerful aerial flips and twists peppered with graceful dance elements -- and you'll see why she's ready to be an Olympic contender. The routine earned her second place at the 2012 American Cup this past weekend. If she performs as well at the Olympic Trials in late June, she'll take a spot on the women's U.S. gymnastics team. "I'm excited. I'm anxious. And I'm just kind of ready for it to happen. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for it," <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/16/152752207/gymnasts-journey-toddler-tumbler-to-golden-girl" target="_hplink">she told NPR</a>.
Gymnast Jordyn Wieber took home gold at the World Championships in Tokyo last year at just 16. The Olympics are well within her reach. But refreshingly enough, Jordyn still has a normal life -- well, as normal as an Olympic hopeful's can be. "I like having a separate group of friends to go to the movies with and get my mind off gymnastics. I like being a normal student," <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=wieberfever" target="_hplink">she told ESPN</a>.
Lee Kiefer's fencing career began in her dining room with lessons from her dad. The lessons paid off: At 17, she qualified to join the American foil team in London this summer. But she hasn't let her success go to her head. "Of course, I want to get a medal this year, and I know I can put up a fight. But I don't want to set myself up to be disappointed. [By 2016], I hope to be at my best. I know I haven't reached that point yet," <a href="http://espn.go.com/high-school/girl/story/_/id/7872314/lee-kiefer-represent-us-fencing-london-olympics" target="_hplink">she told ESPN</a>.
This is the first Olympic Games in which women will be able to compete for boxing medals, and it appears that 17-year-old Claressa Shields could very well earn the first. Currently, she's ranked first in the nation in her weight class and recently qualified for the Olympics. Shields feels her best when she's in the ring. "Sometimes, it's like all your problems go away," <a href="http://espn.go.com/high-school/girl/story/_/id/7899778/claressa-shields-hopes-make-us-women-boxing-team" target="_hplink">she told ESPN</a>. "It's just time to take care of business once you get in there. I like that. Once you get in there, you've got to go the extra mile."
Touted as the next Michael Phelps <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/sports/olympic-hopeful-missy-franklin-loves-her-high-school-team.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">by the <em>New York Times</em></a>, 17-year-old Missy Franklin will be a favorite to make the U.S. women's swimming team at the Olympic Trials in June. Last summer, she came home from the world championships in Shanghai with five medals. "A lot of people think of swimming as an individual sport, but I've always loved the team aspect," Franklin, who still competes for her high school, told the <em>New York Times</em>.