Momentum grows stronger for youngster in pool’s fast lane

The women’s national record in swimming’s 200-meter butterfly event had stood firm at 2 minutes 12.57 seconds since May 25, 1987, when it was set by Elli Roussaki. It was broken just days ago by a 16-year-old swimmer, Vasso Angelopoulou, who was just five days old when the record she slashed was established. Besides setting a new national record, Angelopoulou, who was competing at the European Junior Swimming Championships in Glasgow, also set a European record at 2 minutes 10.64 seconds and won a gold medal. As recently as last year, Angelopoulou had no visions for a new national record, she admitted in an interview with Kathimerini, but began sensing its imminence early this season. Years of commitment by Angelopoulou, who began her swimming training at the age of three, started paying off during her early teens, when her potential, on a national level, was becoming clear. Angelopoulou compensates for her lack of height, a disadvantage for any swimmer, with strength, stamina, and hard work. «Regardless of whether you’re appropriately built or not, you won’t get anywhere without willpower, patience, persistence, and inner strength,» the athlete remarked. Though still at school, Angelopoulou says she has already made up her mind about focusing her life on swimming. «I don’t like school. I think swimming will shape my life. This has already begun happening,» she said. How did you react when you broke the record? Calmly, because I also had to swim in the 400-meter relay just a few minutes later. Did you expect it? No. I believed I would swim between 2:11.50 and 2:12.00. But, as it tuned out, the intensely fought race produced the time. You would have qualified for the final in the women’s senior competition with such a time… I know, but I focused my efforts on junior-level competition because we didn’t expect it. Swimming practice must be monotonous. You count pool tiles. How do you cope? I enjoy it. Do you, perhaps, do it for the glory generated by success? Glory and success require effort, persistence and patience. How are you handling the prospect of next year’s Olympics? Calmly. I haven’t realized what the Olympics are really all about. I think it’s just another competition. But I believe this will end when the moment finally arrives. Do you dream about stepping onto the medals stand? It seems unattainable. It’s a wild dream. But who knows. Effort and willpower can bring achievement. They used to say that Roussaki’s record was unbreakable, but it was broken in the end. My dreams for 2004 are to qualify for the finals, both in the 200-meter butterfly event and the 400-meter relay. No Greek swimmer has ever made it to a final.