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California Wildfires Force Senior National Team into Las Vegas Training

By Emily Falkenberg | Aug. 29, 2020, 7:12 p.m. (ET)

LAS VEGAS – Wildfires raging across the state of California have closed the training facility for the USA Artistic Swimming Senior National Team once again, forcing the team into a training camp in Las Vegas, NV. 

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 650 wildfires have burned over 1.25 million acres across California since Aug. 15. These fires caused hazardous air quality across the northern part of the state which has forced the closure of many outdoor recreational areas, including the training facility for the team.  

An all too familiar scene to Senior National Team athlete Lindi Schroeder. Schroeder, like the rest of her teammates, spent over 80 days out of the water and in quarantine when COVID-19 closed the facility back in March. Schroeder said everything from the last six months proved this team is willing and able of adapting in all situations and continuing to improve. 

“This trip not only gives us valued pool time, but further strengthens our adaptability, which is proving to be a necessary trait as we face the upcoming season,” Schroeder said. 

USA Artistic Swimming Head Coach, Andrea Fuentes said this was just another opportunity to get creative with the team’s training schedule. 

“This was the best solution to get away from the fires, stay safe and still be able to train,” Fuentes said. “One of our main philosophies is to have problem solving mindset. This has come to fruition in this case because our goal has a deadline, and every minute we cannot be in the pool is time we lose against our goal. It is not about having the biggest pool, but about using every opportunity to train and pursue our goal.” 

The team will spend several days training at the home facility of the Nevada Desert Mermaids and even spending a few of those hours in a backyard pool. Thanks to the USOPC’s partnership with Airbnb, the team can stay in one place and take extra safety precautions. 

The three athletes selected to join the Senior National Team, Megumi Field, Anya Melson, and Nikki Dzurko, joined the National Team at the training camp in Las Vegas. Fuentes said it ended up being a perfect scenario to welcome the new athletes because the training camp environment provides a bonding experience for the team. 

“It is the perfect place for the new swimmers to join the team because we are all in a space that is new for everyone,” Fuentes said. “It is a good dynamic because the format allows us to spend so much time together to learn about the unique character, strengths and personality of the rest of the team.” 

Fuentes said it is exciting to her when things do not always follow the plan because it creates an opportunity to grow. She tries to give the athletes the same perspective when they face any challenge. 

“I get more motivated when things get difficult because I think it is challenge, an adventure and another opportunity to grow,” Fuentes continued. “I encourage the athletes to do the same and embrace new challenges and take it as a way to prove you can do anything. It is the best way to grow confidence because you can prove you can adapt and do anything when your back is against the wall.” 

“It is important to maintain the mindset that anything can happen along our journey, but nothing will stop us from our goal,” Fuentes added.