By Ros Dumlao//USA Swimming Communications intern
For Joy Lim, swimming is more than a hobby or a passion.
It’s like a gift given from her parents.
Having migrated to the U.S. from South Korea in 1988 at age 15, Lim has a special appreciation for the sport. Through her personal experience, she hoped the swimmers at USA Swimming’s Diversity Select Camp gained a similar feeling.
“I’d like to have them go home understanding that what they have right now is really a blessing, and how hard their parents had to work for them to get here, to really appreciate what they’ve done for them,” Lim said.
The Diversity Select Camp was held May 2-5 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and has been going on since the mid-1990s.
Thirty-six swimmers, 18 boys and 18 girls, who ranged from 14-16 years old, attended the camp. They applied and had to meet time standards in order to qualify, and USA Swimming then selected from that pool of applicants.
The athletes represented an ethnically underrepresented population that is less than 10 percent of the current USA Swimming membership. Those ethnicities include African American, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander or Native American.
According to Sue Anderson, USA Swimming Programs and Services Director, the camp had two goals:
“It’s about swimming, becoming better and more successful swimmers,” Anderson said. “But the other thing is creating leaders in the sport and then growing the diversity of the sport.
“We want them to be role models so that other kids coming up can look up to them and say, ‘we can’t just have one Cullen Jones.’ We want this sport to look like this country, and they’re part of that. We want this sport to reflect the United States of America.”
The camp included a combination of pool training, motivation and educational sessions along with team-building activities.
Speakers included Dr. Regina Lewis and London Olympian Lia Neal. Lewis was the main presenter and spoke on diversity inclusion and cultural awareness.
The event was Lim’s first time serving as head coach of the camp, where she had served as an assistant coach for past camps.
At 15, she began swimming for a local team. It was Lim’s first time swimming competitively, and she was then recruited to swim at California State University, Northridge but declined.
Lim started coaching at 20 years old and eventually had her own small club in the Korea town area of Los Angeles.
“When I came to America in 1988, I actually wasn’t much of a swimmer, but America offered so many opportunities, like everything was open,” Lim said. “I really consider myself the luckiest person who has benefitted from American culture.”
“Immigrants in general, they have to work really, really hard making a living in this country, starting over, learning the language, raising their kids and making sure they get a good education; it’s just in our blood to make an extra effort,” Lim added. “Swimming, it’s a competitive sport (so) the sport is well fit for us, in terms of doing our best at all times and giving our best efforts.”