Former New Canaan YMCA synchronized swimmer Pinette preps for Olympics
Updated 6:36 pm, Wednesday, November 30, 2011
One can assume that fulfilling a dream of competing in the Olympics is a feat that would be hard to put into words.
Leah Pinette, a synchronized swimmer with ties to New Canaan who was just selected to the 2012 United States Olympic Team, attempted to sum it up as best as she could.
"You're following your dreams, so to say you got this far is a dream come true," Pinette said.
Pinette, a resident of Bristol who graduated from Ohio State University in 2008, got her start in synchronized swimming as a four-year-old and logged most of her practice time at the New Canaan YMCA.
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"It kind of ran in the family. My grandmother got us started, and I have a twin sister who competed as well. I learned how to swim when I was eight months old and started synchro when I was four," Pinette said. "There were only a few clubs in Connecticut when I was growing up, and New Canaan was the top club."
In addition to Pinette, New Canaan's Megan Hansley was also selected to the 2012 Olympic Team. Although the two never swam on the same team in New Canaan, Pinette is quite familiar with Hansley and indicated that she's looking forward to competing together at the Olympics.
"We both swam at the New Canaan Aquinas, but I never swam with her because I was a few years older, but I knew about her growing up and we've trained together," Pinette said. "It's a small sport so we all know each other. You come together as a team like a family does, so it's nice to make the [Olympic] team with girls that you're close to."
While learning the sport, Pinette benefitted from the tutelage of Jen Muzyk, the New Canaan YMCA Aquianas head coach.
"I saw qualities in Leah that led me to believe that she had real potential, even from an early age," Muzyk said. "I'm obviously very proud [of Pinette and Hansley]. I was there when they were named to the Olympic team, and it's nice to see a lot of hard work paying off."
Pinette, who will be the captain of the Olympic team, and her teammates are scheduled to compete in China in one week and are due back in the states just before the holidays.
Pinette's Olympic coach, Mayu Fujiki, sounded confident in Pinette's ability to cope with the pressure that inevitably comes with performing on the Olympic stage.
"Leah is very serious and very focused in practice. I really respect her as a swimmer," Fujiki said. "She's been doing great as team captain and I can see her growing as an athlete. New Canaan has got two great swimmers on this team."
Pinette acknowledged that the idea of competing in the Olympics is still somewhat "surreal," but it's a challenge she's certainly looking forward to.
"I guess it will be a little nerve-wracking, but it's also really exciting," Pinette said "Trying to qualify for the Olympics is kind of as surreal as it can get."