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The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

Junior balances artistic swimming, school

He after the Junior Olympics Competition held in Hampton, Virginia.
Provided by Yiwen He
He after the Junior Olympics Competition held in Hampton, Virginia.

She wears a detailed costume and applies bright makeup, ensuring that the judges can see her bold facial expressions, even in the middle of the pool.

Her hair is the worst part. She has to put her hair up in a bun and pour hot gelatin over it so it stays in place during her performance. To remove the hardened gel, she boils hot water to melt it and scrape it off with a comb.

Junior Yiwen He has competed in artistic swimming, formerly known as synchronized swimming, since the second grade.

He swims for the Houston SynchroStars. Before artistic swimming, He practiced ice skating, dance, gymnastics and speed swimming.

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“My mom forced me into it – she just brought me to a pool one day,” He said. “At first, I was like ‘Absolutely not.’ I literally sat there and refused to get in the water. I honestly don’t remember how but I guess I started warming up and actually trying and I was like ‘Okay, it’s not that bad. Maybe I should just continue it’.”

He and Houston SynchroStars team at the South Zones Competition in Hampton, Virginia. (Provided by Yiwen He)

He spends a minimum of 15 hours in the water per week. She doesn’t practice on Tuesdays and Fridays, so on those days she tries to finish as much school work as she can.

“[The days where I do have practice], I start homework pretty late and I’m also tired from practice, but it’s gotten to the point when I’m getting used to it,” He said. “I just manage my time based [on my practices]. I mean, it’s not terrible. I can manage, I have some free time but it’s not too much.”

Because the sport requires every swimmer to move in unison, a strong team bond is vital to the performance. The freestyle team consists of five members, while the acrobatic team has seven. Every year since He started swimming, her team has gone to regionals- a total of nine times.

“I’ve been swimming with [my teammates] for a couple of years,” He said. “I’ve grown with them as an athlete. I really enjoy spending time with them. [My] team, last year especially, we’re all really open and close with each other because last year, our coach was very, very hard on us because she knew we had the potential for our last competition, Junior Olympics.”

He has competed in Junior Olympics seven times. Held in the summer, preparation for the Junior Olympics starts at the beginning of the school year with training and monthly competitions at the end of the school year leading up to it.

He and Houston SynchroStars at the Junior Olympics Competition in Hampton, Virginia. (Provided by Yiwen He)

“When Yiwen and I went to our second Junior Olympics, she got quite plane sick,” teammate Sarah Levaro said. “The night before the competition, Yiwen was so sick the team formulated a plan to compete without her the following day if worst came to worst. Despite her condition, Yiwen woke up the following day and chose strength and perseverance, making sure we could swim our team routine with all eight swimmers. Knowing that Yiwen was pushing through sickness the entire time, I felt extremely inspired when we swam that day.”

He’s former coach, Ginny Whisenhunt, Lead Coach for Houston SynchroStars, has known He for over six years. During lockdowns in 2020, He continued to practice both at home and over Zoom, working on skills for when the team could return to the pool.

“I’ve watched her adapt to new teammates and new coaches to have successful seasons,” Whisenhunt said. “Yiwen is a person who leads by example. One of Yiwen’s strengths is understanding her teammates and what each needs to be motivated. She also knows when to bring levity to a situation and when to bring everyone back into focus.”

When referring to He’s work ethic, Levaro described her as “reliable, lively and disciplined.”

“[He] is the teammate that you can truly count on to push through anything for the sake of the team,” Levaro said.

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  • E

    EmilyFeb 16, 2024 at 10:57 am

    love this!

  • S

    SaraFeb 15, 2024 at 9:13 am

    super awesome/unique story

  • A

    Alex LinFeb 12, 2024 at 1:40 pm

    Great Writing!