Swimternational: Paulo de Paula’s Olympic Dream Never Fades

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Photo Courtesy: Paulo de Paula

By Mariana de Paula, Swimming World College Intern

Swimternational is a bi-weekly column focused on the life of international college swimmers. People who chose to leave their countries and family behind so they could chase their dreams. Athletes that went through social, cultural and language barriers while having the time or their lives. So here’s the first one…

It was the age of superheroes and videogames for Paulo de Paula, a Brazilian swimmer who is everything but ordinary. Paulo started swimming when he was just a little boy, but his passion for the sport didn’t emerge much later than that. At nine years old, Paulo began changing his lifestyle, and the alterations were becoming more and more noticeable.

While most of the kids would hang posters of their favorite bands, he drew the Olympic rings and hung it on his closet door. This way, he would be able to glance at it every day when he was getting ready for practice.

Paulo, that can’t recall the moment he fell in love with swimming, says the sport has taught him a lot, and he developed skills and lessons that he will take with him through the rest of his life. Abilities that make him not only a better athlete, but a better human being.

Thirteen years have gone by, and today Paulo is a rising senior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After many years of professional swimming in Brazil, Paulo chose to improve his career as an athlete and a student by moving to the U.S. alone. There, he has learned the importance of strength training, nutrition, flexibility and their roles in becoming an Olympic athlete.

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Photo Courtesy: Paulo de Paula

For Paulo, the best part of the sport was always the people that you get to meet.

“It is incredible how you can make long-lasting friendships on this sport. “ Swimming brings people together from all around the world. According to him, the best moment of his career was a relay that he swam with his brother, saying that “that was a remarkable moment” for him.

Recently, with the support of his coach, Victor Wales, the athlete made a difficult but worthy decision. He took a semester off his academic year, moved temporarily to Brazil where he is focusing solely on his training. As a redshirt swimmer during this fall semester, he now prioritizes his practices and works towards one main goal.

“I think his decision to move home and train shows he is ready to make the next step as an athlete,” said Wales.

The breaststroker holds on to the dream of making the Olympic cut and representing Brazil in his own home.

During the practice period in Brazil, the swimmer is taking some time to heal from a very difficult injury. Paulo found, last May, the presence of three herniated discs located in his lower back. But for a high performance athlete, difficulties are part of the road, and even make the journey more exciting.

“I take this as a motivation to not only take care of my body and my health even more, but also a motivation to keep fighting,” Paulo said.

The satisfaction of giving everything you have in order to achieve your one target is priceless, because when you have a dream, everything else is second best.