BY Natasha Mascarenhas

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PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 11. REBECCA Soni, a six time Olympic medalist, has come back to where it all began: The Sonny Werblin Recreation Center. Right here, at the complex that houses the 2013 CeraVe Invitational, is exactly where this past Olympian delved into the pool for the first time.


Of course the question exists on how this gold medalist began her swimming career. Surprisingly, swimming was not her first choice. She always loved gymnastics but when her sister inspired her to join the swim team, Soni chose to step up and join her sister. Little did she know how far this decision would bring her.

"At first I really did love gymnastics," said Soni. "But now looking back at it, I obviously wouldn't trade swimming for any other sport. I am so thankful I decided to swim"

Before all her fame, Soni came to the recreation center to swim, train, and practice for hours. Soni reflects fondly on being in the facility for hours and hours, and remembers times when she spent whole days on the crowded pool decks.

From the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center to the Olympics, Soni's swimming has never failed to impress. She currently is the only woman to break 2 minutes and 20 seconds in the 200m breaststroke, something she achieved during the 2012 Olympics. As a result of this achievement, she received a gold medal. Additionally, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Soni, brought home two silver medals in the 4x100 medley relay and the 100 breaststroke.

Because of Soni's medals and records, she was awarded a Golden Goggle award by USA Swimming, one of the highest achievements a swimmer can be gifted with. She donated the Golden Goggle award to the Werblin Recreation Center, as a way of thanking the people who made her who she was today.

Soni's wide array of achievements extends past the pool. Through many talks, meet and greets, and special appearances, Soni has had the time to meet her fans and develop herself. Due to her endorsement of the new CeraVe sunscreen line, the Soni made an appeared at the CeraVe meet. Soni sat down for over two hours signing autographs, talking to fans, and taking pictures. Even though over one hundred people came to visit her, she made a point to talk to each fan and take pictures.

Some people only came to the meet to visit the swimming star; these people received special pink passes and had the chance to meet Soni first. One of these lucky people was Kim Broggi.

"We brought a t-shirt, backpack, and a cap all for Rebecca to sign," Broggi explained with her children by her side. "We are all really excited to meet her so she can motivate new swimmers."

As the session goes on, the Olympian will continue to watch the meet and cheer on her old team mates, Lia Neal and Katie Ledecky. Although not swimming, Soni plans to be a part of the meet through her CeraVe endorsement and by encouragement to swimmers.

"I'm taking some time off of the pool for right now, which is a first," Soni explained. "But I'm enjoying every second of it. I'm beginning to figure out who I am outside the pool and its great."