Venezuelan synchronized swimming teacher trains athletes with Down syndrome in the US

Isis Sánchez trains a group of synchronized swimmers with Down Syndrome, an experience that she defines as “inspiring”

Text: Fabiana Rondon

Synchronized swimming was not the first passion in Isis Sánchez’s life, as she confesses. She also started practicing it “late”, at the age of 13, to please her father, who asked her to try the discipline.

Before that, she spent 10 years in swimming and gymnastics, but that change, which initially would be for a month, became her new passion and opened the door to the Venezuelan synchronized swimming team when she barely had a year of experience. .

“I only thought of doing it for a month so that my dad would see that I was not refusing the opportunity. However, when I started doing it I found it fascinating. It is a sport that is not only swimming, you mix too many things: dance, dancing, swimming, skill, gymnastics, all of that in the same sport. It totally captivated me and I ended up staying,” he told the Voice of America.

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Since joining the Venezuelan team, she has perfected her technique much more, so much so that years later she managed to become an instructor.

Now he trains athletes with Down syndrome in the United States, and was an important part in creating a category for these people in high-level competitions.

Training athletes with Down Syndrome: an inspiring experience

It all started in 2015 when she emigrated from Venezuela because of the political and social crisis and a trigger: the murder of her and her husband’s best friend.

After emigrating, she was away from synchronized swimming for a few years. However, when her daughter was nine months old, she decided to enroll the little girl in classes and reconnected with her passion. She stayed working at the center and specialized as a children’s swimming instructor. Later, a co-worker referred her to the Miami Swimming Down Syndrome Association, who wanted to explore the possibility of creating a synchronized swimming team.

The Venezuelan began working with the association and they formed a team of girl athletes whom she taught only recreationally, not to compete.

Some time later, she was contacted by Gracie Noriega, owner and manager of the Miramar Mermaids team, who told her that they wanted to open the category for athletes with disabilities. “In the end we ended up joining that club,” Sánchez said.

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Thanks to Norway’s contacts with the US Artistic Swimming Federation, the “Athlete with Disability” category was created for people with disabilities. In 2021 her team began to participate in different competitions in Florida and other states, and even abroad.

“Where we came, it was a wonderful thing, people cried, they were so happy to see these girls doing this very complicated sport, because it is a complex sport, but they enjoy it and they really have such an incredible vibe that was and It’s still wonderful,” Sanchez said.

The equipment inspired the creation of many synchronized swimming teams of this type, says the instructor. “It is something that fills us with great joy and satisfaction to have been able to inspire the country and all the people and synchronized swimming teams to be encouraged to include this type of people”, she affirms.

Currently, Isis Sánchez continues training the synchronized swimming group for competitions in various states of the country. Her work fills her with pride and she claims that she is an inspiration. That is why the Venezuelan aspires to continue training more people with Down Syndrome, but not only to impart their knowledge in synchronized swimming but to instill in them that they are capable of achieving everything they set their minds to and that their condition is not a limitation. .

“I want to continue to inspire people to believe in themselves regardless of any disabilities they may have,” he concluded.

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