ArticlesJun 02 2011
- Written by Sharon Robb
High School: Douglas
It's hard to believe Gina Gautieri was ever afraid of the water.
"My mom put me in swim lessons and I would just sit there and not go in," Gautieri said. "I was afraid of the water.
"Eventually, I went in and I wouldn't come out."
Swim America coach Biggi Lohberg told Gautieri about the club swim team at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
"I fell in love with it," Gautieri said.
Fourteen years later, Gautieri still loves swimming even though she had a full classload of AP courses, honors classes, community service, school clubs and honor societies to juggle during high school.
Gautieri was an early bloomer in swimming. She competed in the backstroke and breaststroke in the 8-and-unders at Sizzler Meets and got her first Junior Olympic cut in the breaststroke at age 8.
At 12, she was so focused that SOFLO/Coral Springs coach Bruno Darzi told her she needed more and had her train with six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg two days a week for extra training. She worked with Lohberg until his untimely death in April.
"Bruno and Michael always made it fun and I just fell in love with swimming even more," Gautieri said. "I love working hard and having that satisfaction of achieving something after all the hard work, but I always had fun with it.
"Michael was a big influence on me as a breaststroker. If I wasn't doing well or in a slump I just kept pushing through it. I was never the type that was going to switch teams. I really love the team.
"I believe in trusting your coaches. I knew Michael was a great coach. I wanted to keep going for him. He did so much for me, it was unbelievable."
Gautieri, in the top four percent of her class, her high school's Wendy's Heisman Award winner and two-time captain of the girls' swim team, is well-disciplined and self-motivated. She credits swimming with those qualities.
"Swimming helped me throughout life," Gautieri said. "I am really disciplined, focused and independent. Swimming did all that for me. If someone tells me to do something I will do it until I get it right."
Gautieri qualified for the state meet her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Her teammates voted her team captain her junior and senior years.
While she has had several swimming career highlights, she said the biggest was when she made finals at this year's state meet. Her sophomore and junior years she fell short.
"It was really a big thing for me to make finals," Gautieri said. "I had a rough season last year. I had sprained my lower back and was out of swimming for a while. I only trained about 2,000 so to be able to make finals was big for me."
Gautieri also won district titles in the 100-yard breaststroke and 500-yard freestyle and county title in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Her work ethic has impressed Gautier's coaches ever since she started swimming.
"Time management was a big thing for me," Gautieri said. "I learned how to do that because I was swimming so much. Coach John told my mom when I was six that if anything I would be very disciplined from swimming.
"My friends would ask if I could do something with them and I would tell them I have practice. It never bothered me that I couldn't go out. I enjoyed working hard. Getting out of the pool after a hard workout is the best feeling ever. Even though you hate the workout while you are trying to get through it, it's just the best feeling."
Gautieri is headed to Bucknell in the fall to swim and study mechanical engineering. She said the college is a perfect fit for furthering her education and swimming career.
"It is bittersweet I am leaving," Gautieri said. "I definitely want to come back during the summers and holiday breaks to train here. It still means a lot to me.
"I have spent fourteen years of my life on that pool deck. I don't want to leave it all. I am excited about the future. Everything I wanted has happened and I have swimming to thank for it."