Brassil, Kong in Sync for Olympic Dream


Lexie Reinecke, Staff Writer

Senior Gillian Brassil and freshman Regina Kong, both synchronized swimmers on the Walnut Creek Aquanuts team, have gained national acclaim. In 2013, Kong represented the US at the Mediterranean Cup in Andorra, and this upcoming season, Brassil will join the US Junior National Team for their 2015 competition.

The US Junior National Team will compete at the 2015 FINA (Federation Internationale De Natation) Synchronized Swimming World Cup in Kazan, Russia. Not only will the team be competing for the coveted FINA trophy, they are currently working towards qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Brassil, originally from Andover, Massachusetts, moved to California at 15 to train with the Walnut Creek Aquanuts. The team, according to a 2012 San Jose Mercury Times article, has “participated in every Olympiad from 1984 on, producing eight champions, many of whom return to join the coaching staff.”

Brassil said on a typical practice day, the team will run up to 5 miles, do push-ups, sit-ups, as well as swim workout. Following the conditioning, there is flexibility training and routine practice.  “I practice everyday from 4 to 6 hours,” she said. [I practice at] at DVC [Diablo Valley College], here at Campo, and then usually Heather Farms at night.”

Kong, who also practices at Heather Farms, explained, “We practice a lot, and sometimes the practices are kind of tiring, but at the meet, all your practices, the routine and the figures, everything you worked for, is worth it. You worked for that moment, and it’s a special experience after you finish that routine, to realize, oh, [you are] finally done after half a year of practicing.”

Kong began synchro 5 years ago after seeing a routine first-hand. She said, “My mom saw an ad in the paper for a swim show and the theme was ‘groovy’. We went to Heather Farms, we saw it, and I thought it was so cool that I tried it at Try-It-Day. That’s how I got started.”

Brassil’s introduction synchronized swimming came after she experienced an injury in gymnastics. She explained, “It’s been almost 9 years. I was a gymnast and I had a knee injury so I had to switch to a water sport, and we found this at the local YMCA [Young Man’s Christian Association].”

She explained she has much respect for the sport. “It’s something very different from most sports in that you have to rely so much on your teammates to do the right thing to prevent injury, and you’re constantly in sync with them. You spend a lot of time with them, in the water, out of the water working on how to connect.”

In terms of her career, Brassil stated that the process of being recruited for college started early for her. “You go through a series of trials, so when I was 11 years old I was chosen. I’ve been recruited and watched since that time period. I actually moved out here to California so that I could qualify for a national team.”

According to Brassil, rankings are determined on trials which test strength, flexibility, and water skills. From there, competitors are either selected or rejected from a national team. Brassil said, “I’ve tried out for the Junior national team and [have] made that. I’ve tried out for [the] Senior national team, which is potentially the Olympic team if they should make it past Olympic qualifiers.”

Kong said, “I’ve been to trials and actually it’s a very interesting experience. Last year, I expected it to be really intense but I was surprisingly relaxed. There’s not that many people there, because you have to qualify with a time from a previous event.”

Despite hours of practice everyday, Brassil has managed to achieve a straight “A” average as well as win prestigious academic honors such as being named a Johns Hopkins Gifted Student and a High Honor Roll Student for four years.

For both her scholastic achievement and synchro career, Brassil has been accepted to Stanford University for the 2016-2017 school year.

She explained, “Synchro has given me the opportunity to attend Stanford University, so I’m excited about that opportunity. I’ve been recruited or contacted by a lot of colleges that have synchro[nized swimming] in them. I’ve always wanted to go to Stanford, and maybe come March, I’ll decide to go there, depending on how scholarships clear.”

As Stanford is home to one of the country’s best synchronized swimming programs, the school offers not only an exceptional academic education, but a platform for undergraduate athletes. Kong said, “It would be a really cool experience to swim in college. I’d like to go to Stanford, too, but I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”

In terms of her future in the sport, Brassil explained, “Synchro isn’t a career option because it’s not that big in the U.S. I hope to swim in college and possibly go for the Olympics in 2020.”