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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 6 months ago

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: David Mendez

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The 12-year-old Southwest Stars swimmer broke six team records in the 11-12 age group at the Rosen Aquatic Invite the weekend of Dec. 4.
by: Chris Martucci Sports Editor

David Mendez is a swimmer for the Southwest Stars swim team in Winter Garden and attends Horizon West Middle School. At the Rosen Aquatic Invitational during the weekend of Dec. 4, Mendez broke six team records in the 11-12 age group. He came within a second of a seventh in the 100-yard butterfly and finished third in points scored for the meet. He and his family came to the United States from Venezuela when he was 5 years old.

What memories do you have of living in Venezuela? 

When I was in pre-K, we went to this big mountain, which was really fun. There was a circus we always used to go to — there were lions and other typical circus stuff. I also remember when I first started swimming. 

What got you started in club swimming? 

My dad used to swim, and then he put me in. I didn’t like it at first, going, “Oh, why am I supposed to swim? It’s really boring!” Then, when I saw Michael Phelps and Caeleb Dressel getting all those world records, I went, “Yeah, I can be one of those swimmers one day,” and started working hard. Now, I’m here today beating six records. 

Heading into the Rosen Invitational, did you think you’d break six records? 

I was really nervous, knowing there were going to be a lot of good swimmers there. Every time you’re at the Rosen, there is going to be someone insanely good. It would be hard to beat them, but you could do it. When I saw the chance to break six team records, I took it. 

You and teammate Kaden Kiefer finished second and third for high point in your age group. What’s the relationship between you two like? 

We’ve been rivals since I came here last year. In some strokes, he’s faster than me, such as in the 200 IM at the last meet. Someone of his caliber can still beat me. I was beating him for a period of time, but eventually, it was going to come to one day — he was going to beat me. 

What’s it like competing with him at practice every day? 

In practice, we always do hard sets against each other. When we get to the backstroke point, I’m not the best backstroker, and he is a better backstroker than me. I train the backstroke hard, and I came in sixth in the 200 back, but the best thing about my backstroke is my flip turn and my underwaters. 

What is your best leg of the IM? 

Butterfly and freestyle. 

What are your goals in the sport of swimming? 

Becoming a legend like Michael Phelps and being known as a legendary swimmer that comes only once a decade or 100 years. 

Which country would you swim for in the Olympics, considering you still hold Venezuelan citizenship? 

If I don’t make it on the U.S. team, I’ll gladly swim for Venezuela. 

Favorite event in swimming? 

200 butterfly. At first, you’re full of energy, then when you get to that third 50, you’re drop-dead exhausted. Then on the last 50, you get that last surge of energy and you just explode. 

Favorite swimmer? 

Michael Phelps. 

Favorite movie? 

“Cars.” 

Favorite type of music and favorite artist? 

Hip-hop — Bruno Mars. 

Is there a routine you follow to get yourself ready for practice? 

Before we go to practice, I always stretch so that I don’t injure myself. My dad makes me this really good protein shake, so I’ll have one before I go to practice. 

Describe your pre-race routine to get yourself ready to swim. 

I listen to music to get myself ready. My dad always told me to listen to calming music, or music you like, and then imagine your race to the last detail. Anything to get into the zone. 

Hobbies outside of swimming? 

Playing video games. 

Favorite video game? 

“Naruto Storm 4.”

Favorite Naruto character besides Naruto himself? 

Minato Namikaze, Naruto’s father. Besides being the Fourth Hokage, he’s a really cool character overall. 

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Chris Martucci was the sports editor for the West Orange Times & Observer,  Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. He holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism, as well as a bachelor's degree in digital media...

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