Swimmer Chris Leung’s pre-race ritual is to stay quiet, take some deep breaths … and wish his opponent luck.
“Since you swim with the same people for years, you already know them, so I say good luck to them and try to lock into the zone and be ready for the race,” says the Northwood High swim captain who holds several school records.
It seems to be working.
In April, Leung led the Timberwolves to the title at the Mt. San Antonio College Spring Meet of Champions. He took first in the 100 breaststroke; he broke a pool, meet and team record in the 200 free relay; and his relay group broke a pool and meet record while taking first in the 400 free relay.
“There’s a lot of nerves before a race,” he admits. “But one of the skills I’ve learned is to turn that into speed and power.”
It starts with practice. Leung takes part in eight practices a week – totaling about 18 hours in the water – so he won’t have to think during competition.
“We’ll miss his leadership. He’s super intelligent, a leader amongst his peers, and one of the fiercest competitors in the program.” – Northwood coach Alex Nieto
“During a race, you don’t want to think about every aspect of your swimming,” he says. “It should be automatic. Thinking can slow you down, and every second, every millisecond, matters.”
Last year, Leung, who also swims for the Irvine Novaquatics club team, was named to USA Swimming’s Scholastic All-America team. Next year, he will swim for Northwestern University, while majoring in computer science.
“We’ll miss his leadership,” says Northwood coach Alex Nieto. “He’s super intelligent, a leader amongst his peers, and one of the fiercest competitors in the program.”
Leung hopes to make his college coach just as proud. And down the road, he’s not ruling out competing in the Olympic Games one day.
“That’s definitely a dream of mine,” he says. “It’s always on my mind, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”