By Payton Titus, Swimming World College Intern.
Who is Denny Gulia-Janovski, and what makes him so exceptional? Gulia-Janovski’s list of accolades includes the following: two Junior National Championship titles, two years as a USA Pan American Team Member, USA Diving Junior National Squad Member, and a 2017 Junior Pan American Games silver medal. Not to mention that he is only 14 years old.
The Makings of a Champion
Though he has proven and solidified his status as a top-tier diver, Gulia-Janovski originally started his career as a gymnast. At the age of seven, his mother made the executive decision to put him on a dive team. During a discussion about the switch, his mother explained that “at first, it wasn’t a choice. He had to do diving. It was convenient because it was at [his] school.” Over the course of the last seven years, diving has transformed from a convenience to a way of life for the Gulia-Janovski family.
When asked what sets Gulia-Janovski apart from his peers, Coach Dave Burgering of the Fort Lauderdale Dive Team said, “For one, it’s his ability. He is gifted and also very coachable. He wants to get better and wants to get coaching. All of that makes him who he is.” However, his outstanding ability is not the only factor that makes him such a preeminent athlete in the diving community.
Perspective on Success
While most young athletes’ dreams are full of fame, fortune and an Olympic gold, Gulia-Janovski instead strives for success both in and out of the diving well. For Gulia-Janovski, “academics are number one. School is always first, and then diving. Sometimes I have to stay up pretty late to finish that essay or homework assignment, but it’s possible.”
Although his silver medal performance at 2017 Junior Pan Pacs proved his ability to compete on an international stage, his ultimate goal is to propel himself into the next chapter – the world of business. Despite having shown Olympic potential, he does not “really think about the Olympics.” The thing that keeps Gulia-Janovski returning to the pool for at least two-and-a-half hours of training each day is “the thought of being successful in life.”
According to his coach, when the time comes to choose a collegiate diving program, “he will need an education in the field he will want. School is very important to him. Being successful in the business world is as important as being successful in diving.”
Gulia-Janovski proves his academic focus in his foreign language elective decisions. As an American son of Russian parents, he is fluent in both English and Russian. While most students opt for Spanish as their “easy” foreign language in middle and high school, Gulia-Janovski chose Chinese. Chinese, the second hardest language to learn aside from English, caught Denny’s eye because of China’s present role in the world economy. His logic is sound; if you want to achieve a lucrative position in the business world, you have to learn how to speak the language.
Gulia-Janovski is a double-threat, equipped with brains and brawn. We seldom see athletes at such an elite level proclaiming education as their number one priority. His values parallel those of Katie Meili and Maya Dirado—two Olympic swimmers known for their academic acuity in addition to their performances in the 2016 Olympic Games. A comparison of that nature should excite and uplift fans of the sport everywhere.
Commentary: All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.