Kukors host camp for local swimmers

Emily Kukors, left, and Ariana Kukors, middle, sign autographs for camper Austin Hanger, right. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Emily Kukors, left, and Ariana Kukors, middle, sign autographs for camper Austin Hanger, right.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

For the young swimmers, it was a chance to learn from the best.

For Auburn’s Ariana and Emily Kukors, it was a chance to give back to the sport that has given them so much over the years.

The sisters came together to put on the first ever Kukors Kamp swim clinic at the Auburn Pool last Saturday. Participants were treated to three hours of instruction and inspiration from Ariana – an Olympian and world record-holder – and her older sister, Emily – an All-American and collegiate national champion.

“This has been in the works for a long time, but this is the first,” Emily said. “We’re doing a few club clinics in Eastern Washington, and we talked a little about opening it up to this area. Rather than us coming to them, we thought it would be great for them to come to us in Auburn. And we got a great response and great turnout.

“Ariana is still fresh off the (London) Olympics, and being hometown girls, we thought it was important to stay in Auburn, have the clinic here, and see who would come to us.”

The event attracted swimmers of all ages, from young beginners to seasoned high school swimmers like Austin Hanger, 15, of Maple Valley.

“It was really cool,” Austin said. “I’ve never actually been in a pool with an Olympian.”

In addition to getting a chance to hit the water for instruction, attendees listened to Ariana and Emily’s own inspirational stories.

“Motivating them, teaching them, getting them away from the television and video games, and getting them outside learning and using their imagination is something that is very important to me,” said Ariana, who has the world record in the 200-meter individual medley. She finished fifth in the London final.

“Swimming for me is an easy way to get in touch with kids. It’s something I’m passionate about and I know,” Ariana said.

The camps have evolved into a business for the Kukors.

“Emily has a great story to tell people. I have my own story. My mom (Jaapje) has something else to add to the mix,” Ariana said. “It’s a little different than what people have done before with clinics.”

Emily added:

“I never thought I’d come back into the swimming industry or career in the way of coaching or doing clinics or motivational speaking. But I was that 8-year-old who looked up to that successful local person, and I remember what that felt like. Now to be one of those persons with my sister is very rewarding.”

In addition to helping inspire and inform swimmers, the Kukors Kamp helps swim parents, with Jaapje sharing the lessons she learned raising competitive swimmers.

“I went to one of those (camps) when my daughter was 9 or 10, and we found out she was going to be good at it,” Jaapje said. “I didn’t know anything about it because I wasn’t a swimmer, but I wanted to be a good swim parent. I was told to just be a parent. So we had one of those today just to give back to the parents.”

Judging by the turnout and the reaction of the swimmers, the camp was a rousing success.

“I’m a big fan of the Kukors, and I love learning about what I can do to make myself a better swimmer,” Hanger said. “I learned to just dream big and that there is not a dream too big.”

“It was pretty cool, I’ve never actually met a celebrity or Olympian,” Mylie Hanger, 9, added.

The event was a success for Emily and Ariana.

“For us it’s more about inspiring,” Emily said. “Our main thought process is never giving up, believing in your coaches, relying on your teammates and always finding a way to get better. The reason people become Olympians is because they love the sport when they’re 8 years old, or 12 years old or 16 years old. So it’s about finding that spark and keeping it alive your entire life.”

“Today was so much fun,” Ariana said. “I’ve done these sorts of things before but it hasn’t been my own gig. And I really liked having that control. It was nice having Emily out of the water to describe things and me in the water interacting and seeing what was going on under the water. It was a ton of fun, and I felt like I was really able to connect with the kids for the first time. It was a great group to have here and this is home. It’s the right place to kick this off.”


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