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Former Patrick Henry standout Jonathan Gomez is representing Colombia in the world junior championships.
The Roanoke Times | File March
Thursday, August 22, 2013
When Jonathan Gomez boarded a plane at Roanoke Regional Airport at 4 p.m. Wednesday, it was two hours past his bedtime.
Gomez has been on a crazy schedule in recent days and he couldn’t have been more excited about it.
A June graduate of Patrick Henry High School, Gomez set off on a journey that is taking him to Dubai for the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships starting Monday and running through Aug. 31.
“It’s a very big deal,” said Greg Lake, Gomez’ coach with the Carter Athletic Center Marlins. “It’s the breeding ground for all future Olympians, basically.
“I read an article that said 70 percent of the Olympians in 2012 came off the [world junior] teams in 2007, 2009 and 2011.”
Gomez will be representing his native Colombia, the country his family fled in the midst of escalating violence in 2009.
Each country is allowed to send two swimmers in each event. Gomez, the Timesland boys swimmer of the year this past season, will swim the 100- and 200-yard butterfly.
“The national team from Colombia contacted my mom and told her that it was a possibility because of my national rank,” Gomez said. “We had to move fast because I needed to get my cut. So, we went to California [to qualify] and here we are.”
Gomez also has qualified for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
“It’s going to be awesome to represent my country,” said Gomez, whose two younger siblings also swam for Patrick Henry this past season.
“As long as it’s safe, I would be looking to go back. But, we don’t know yet. We don’t have authorization from the U.S. government to go back.
“I think I’ll be here for a while. I would go back and swim a couple of meets, but I really like the U.S.”
Gomez, who signed a letter-of-intent to swim for St. Peter’s in Jersey City, N.J., will miss the start of classes.
“It’s the biggest meet of my life and I’ve been working really hard,” he said. “I gave up all my summer and skipped orientation.”
Gomez’s flight from Roanoke took him to Atlanta, and then it was on to Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates. That part of the trip will take 15 hours.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Gomez, who has never been on a plane for more than seven hours. “But, I’ve already gotten used to the Dubai schedule, doing everything eight hours ahead.”
Gomez’s first goal is to drop time, then to finish in the top 10.
Lake’s goal for him is to make the semifinals. In other words, to swim both events at least twice.
Gomez stands 5-foot-9, which is shorter than desired, “but he’s got great technique,” Lake said, “and he’s great under the water, which is kind of the new thing in swimming.”
Lake has been coaching Gomez since May, when he moved over from the Gator Aquatic Center in Roanoke.
“He works real hard,” Lake said. “He does a lot on his own, too. After practice at Washington Park during the summer, he’d run to the [Kirk Avenue] ‘Y’ to lift, and then he’d run home.”
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