Swimming with Olympians

Planet Swim, JAX50 event offers unique opportunity


It is not every day that children get to compete against their heroes, much less when they are Olympians, but that is exactly the opportunity many young swimmers had during the annual JAX50 Sprint Dual Championship.

The event was hosted by Planet Swim Aquatics and was a three-day event that included a dinner and was capped with a competition on April 22.

What makes the competition so unique from other swimming events in the world is that it pits swimmers from the Planet Swim academy against eight swimmers who have competed at the highest level in the Olympic Games for their respective countries.

One of the Olympians was David Curtiss, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world in the 50-meter freestyle and is a strong contender to make the United States Olympic team next year.

“It’s really cool to come down to Florida and be in the pool with these young athletes who are also aspiring to be Olympians one day,” Curtiss said. “It’s just fun to support them and Planet Swim in that journey.”

According to Curtiss, the event really made him think back to when he was younger and first devising his goals to one day be an Olympian.

“It’s cool to see it from the other side, because I was always one to race against Cullen Jones and he was my role model for my entire life and now we’re good friends,” Curtiss said. “It’s fun to see them (young swimmers) light up and knowing you contributed to that excitement.”

One of those young swimmers was Matthew Koziol, who went head-to-head with Jones during the tournament.

“Meeting these guys has been really cool, and I’m not nervous at all, just happy to get out there and race them and get that experience,” Koziol said.

Part of not just being in the pool but just being around them is the chance to ask questions and pick the brain of an Olympic athlete.

“I was thinking about asking David Curtiss if there’s anything I could do to help get an advantage as a short sprinter against taller sprinters or if there’s something I could improve on,” Koziol said.

For Kasia Wasick, a four-time Olympian from Poland, she returned to take part in JAX50 after competing in it last year for the first time.

According to Wasick, being involved with the event reminded her why she started swimming in the first place.

“To be able to inspire the younger generation is amazing,” Wasick said. “They’re such great kids and they have a lot of energy and drive to do better.”

The dinner the night before the competition also served as a fundraiser with all money raised going towards the Planet Swim Foundation, which promotes water safety and swimming development programs.

The foundation has been able to offer summer swim lessons in St. Johns, Duval and Clay Counties for each of the past 10 years as a result of the continued support.

Planet Swim, JAX50, Olympians, swimming