Our Very Own Olympic Hopeful
Luke Pusateri | Age: 15 |Sophomore in High School
Think back to what you were doing when you were 15. Most likely you were hanging out with friends, doing homework and getting ready to learn how to drive. Life probably felt pretty care free. That is, unless you were like Luke, our 15 year old Olympic hopeful! Luke spends 2 hours, 6 days a week, 11+ months out of the year training to make his dreams come true, and he does a lot of that training right here in our pool with RHC trainer, Carol Mochkatel! We interviewed Carol and Luke to get a little insight into what it's like to train for a dream so big! Here is a little bit about what we found out about this incredibly gifted and driven young athlete and his talented and devoted coach.
QUESTIONS FOR CAROL
How often does Luke train?
8 practices a week. Two hour daily practice with me Monday through Saturday. Two morning practices for 1.5 hours before school alone with workouts that I send him. Also, dryland work which includes weights, resistance and flexibility work. Dryland is twice a week, plus extra work at home as desired.
What do the next few years look like for him?
Very exciting! By June of 2020 when he graduates HS, I see him achieving USA Senior National level times in the 200 and 100 breaststroke. I also see him qualifying in 200 & 400 IM. (Individual medley is where all 4 strokes are swam.). Internationally, I see him really being recognized by the Philippines as an up and coming national swimmer for them. I see him competing for the Philippines, for the SEA games (S.E. Asia), Asian Games, World Championships and further down the road the Olympics as a Filipino swimmer. That training started yesterday.
Why does Luke train at Riverside Health Club, and how can we encourage him?
My feeling, as coach, is the support from everyone at Riverside! Leadership has provided a very unique opportunity for Luke to train. Our hours can be flexible if needed. Stu keeps the pool perfect! Clean, steady water temperature ideal for training, investing in equipment to keep the pool in top running shape. One of the most delicate and difficult jobs! Members are amazing! As time has gone on, they are awed by the work ethic and dedication of a young person. My goal has always been to have members feel that they are a part of Luke’s success. We couldn’t do it without their support also. Training alone is difficult in swimming, especially as a young person. He doesn’t have the comrade of teammates to train and push each other. He does have the one on one coaching that is very difficult in a team setting. We work together as a team. I know what Luke needs on any given day and can change workout if needed to provide that. Our ‘team’ also includes his parents, who support him 100%. We work together as Swimmer, parent and coach in a triangle. Luke has helped promote swim lessons! Younger children will watch him train as they wait for their lesson. The parent will tell me that they want to learn to swim like Luke!
How did Luke get connected with you?
Luke and his parents heard about me from others at the YMCA who were getting technical lessons from me. I believe it was Stacia Ware and Michelle Frey, both members at the Club. Luke was on a waiting list for *maybe 6 months. The first time I saw him and his natural ability with no technique training was, "Wow! What a natural!" His breaststroke kick reminded me of a Japanese Olympian named Kosuke Kitajima. Luke excelled even more as he began to correct technique of each stroke. I encouraged his parents to try USA Swimming, not just YMCA. The competition is much broader and faster than Y swimming, the opportunities are endless. It was December of 2014 that Luke swam in a USA swimming Championship for Pacific Northwest swimming that I encouraged him to enter, as he qualified for it. He came in 3rd with a quarter of the training as the others, that his parents contacted me from the meet to get together for a lunch meeting. At that meeting, they asked me if I would privately coach Luke full time. I was excited to agree. We met with Amy (RHC's Operation Manager) to see of the possibility and to work out training fees, as this was slightly different than just lessons. The rest is history! We’ve been doing this together now for 3 years. In that time, Luke has gone from being a good Age Group swimmer to a Jr. National level competitor, with international swimming looming closely in the future.
Are Olympic Games on the horizon, and if so, which USA Olympic Games would he be competing in as an adult if he made it?
This is his ultimate goal, to represent the Philippines at the Olympic Games. However, we do not talk or even mention the Olympics. That is the ultimate for every swimmer. We are taking one step at time working on our attainable short term & long term goals. It would not be until 2024 and/or 2028. Luke will be 22 and 26 respectively. Male breaststrokes don’t reach their peak until their 20’s generally. They require physical maturity and strength. The Olympics for swimming does not have a minimum age requirement. It’s based on your qualifying time. In the US only the top 2 in each event at the Olympic Trial meet qualify for individual events. Top 4 for relays. It’s so difficult! I believe it’s the same for the Philippines, however there are a lot fewer swimmers competing for the Olympic games.
Carol, what are your qualifications and a little bit of your history?
I got started in Mission Viejo, CA at the Mission Viejo Nadadores. (USA swimming club team). I swam for them and I worked for the Club. While in Mission Viejo for 15 + years, I had the opportunity to work with, learn and mentor from the top swim coaches in the country. I had the opportunity while there to work with the Polish Federation and the IOC bringing foreign athletes to Mission Viejo to train with us for the Olympic games. This is a common practice for foreign athletes to come to the States. The best training in the world is here. I also worked with former East German Olympians, coaches and swimmers out of Magdeburg and Potsdam training centers to come to Mission for training camps. When we moved to Camano Island in 2000, I coached briefly for a team in Marysville, but by 2003 started my own USA Swim team called the Steelhead Swim team. The Team dissolved in 2008 when Stanwood lost their one and only pool. I started working at Riverside where I had been a member since 2003 for my own workout. I created the current Progressive Method of Teaching Swim lessons. I started by teaching lessons, but over time my teaching evolved back into coaching and working with more advanced swimmers on the technical side of swimming. I have been coaching Luke for three years, full time as a private coach. I am a registered coach with credentials with USA Swimming. I love the technical and scientific side of swimming, how the body moves through the water. I never stop learning! Swim strokes change often.
Are you taking new students?
Not till September of 2020 at this point! Currently, I have a regular clientele Monday – Saturday. (Practice with Luke Saturday morning). I occasionally will work with another swimmer from Anacortes on Saturday after Luke, but not on a weekly basis. I also spend a minimum of an hour to two hours each morning writing the day’s workout for Luke, researching and planning Luke’s training schedule for the month and or year. I occasionally work with other USA Swimmers from the area, who request technical training and come all the way to Mount Vernon and RHC to work with me. Usually during school vacation or an occasional Saturday. And of course, I have my own swim workout daily.
QUESTIONS FOR LUKE
What got you interested in competitive swimming?
My parents signed me up for swimming. The more I did it, the more I liked it. When we moved to Mount Vernon, I began to break records when younger at the YMCA, which motivated me to continue.
What pushes you to try so hard?
I want to be better than the others when competing.
(Required training in order to obtain short & long term goals).
Training is for 11+ months each year. Luke has 3 weeks off in August after last meet.
Afternoon practice – 6 days a week 2 hours each practice.
(Monday – Saturday)
Morning practice – 2 days a week, 1.5 hours before school
Dryland training – 2 days a week before practice + extra work in home gym.
Training is very calculated into an Annual, Meso and Micro cycles. Perfect technique in all strokes, turns is emphasized. We work all strokes (IM training.) We usually do one meet per month. Occasionally two/month. Luke’s best is Breaststroke.
Equally important to pool time is:
2. Hydration (water)
3. 8 -9 hours sleep/night.
4. Strength, flexibility & resistance training
Winter Jr. Nationals. Here are his times from Jrs and the meet info. Luke achieved these as a 15 year old. Most male swimmers are 16 -18 at this meet.
Meet: USA Swimming Winter Junior Nationals West @ University of Iowa, Iowa City. December 6-9, 2017
Luke’s qualifying events:
100 yard breaststroke - dropped .22 seconds from a 57.32 to a 57.10 (seconds) Seeded 66th finished in 56th place.
200 yard breaststroke – dropped 4.67 seconds from a 2:08.34 to a 2:03.67. Seeded 127th finished in 36th place. A phenomenal swim! Perfectly paced 50’s.
Our Next meet goal is USA Swimming Summer Junior Nationals in Irvine, CA. There is only one meet for summer Jr. Nationals, whereas two for winter Jr. (West and East). The times are faster for summer Jr. He is very close now in the 200 breaststroke. Summer Jrs. Is also the time cut for Winter Short Course (yards instead of meters) Nationals.
Qualify for Finals in 100 & 200 yd. breaststroke @ Y Nationals 4/2018
**Be selected for the SEA Age Group Games (SE Asia) in Manila, representing the Philippines.
Qualify for USA Swimming summer Jr. Nationals in August 2018.
Represent the Philippines at the international level in the Asian Games, World Championships and Olympic Games. Swim for a NCAA Division I university.
Teaching swimming & life skills.
Dedication, sacrifices, internal drive, overcome adversities,
Swimming is much more than showing up at the pool each day. The training requires, dedication, sacrifices from usual teenage lifestyles, overcoming adversities and an incredible internal drive, work ethic, desire and most important a love for swimming and competition.
Private and Semi-Private Swim Lessons are offered here at Riverside Health Club Monday-Saturday with our certified instructors.
John and Carol Votipka
3/1/2018 12:17:50 pm
Thank you, Luke and Carol for this inside look at a young man and a coach we have long admired. We'll often watched them work in the lap pool from our vantage point in the exercise pool during our arthritis class. We wondered about their goals and just what it would take to achieve them. It's all more than we ever imagined. Go for it, Luke !!!
3/9/2018 10:32:33 am
Thank you for posting these interviews. Luke & Carol, you are both amazing and dedicated swimmers! Blessings on you both!
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