In her first meet as a member of the U.S. Junior National Synchronized Swimming Team, Kimiko Urata helped her squad place third at the 2007 U.S. Open National Championships.
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Canada took first place while China finished second in the junior team competition July 15-21 in Waipahu, Hawaii.
In the individual competition, Urata's 12th-place finish was tops amongst all competing U.S. athletes.
"There were a lot of synchronized swimmers who wanted to be where I was," Urata said. "So there was a lot of pressure representing the U.S."
Urata, 17, will be a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School and swims locally with the Juneau Aurora Knights. She made the junior national team on May 27.
On June 10, Urata moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., and spent five weeks at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. There, she trained, swam, ate and competed like an Olympian.
"It was very cool," Urata said. "I met a lot of great people and at one point I was working out in the same building as (U.S. gold medal-winning short-track speed skater) Apolo Ohno. It was hard to leave."
Swimming on a team was a completely different experience for Urata. She normally performed in the duet competition with Juneau teammate Sarah Felix.
"On a team you have to work on (team) patterns, swim close to one another and be 10 times sharper," she said.
Career synchronized swimming highlights
2007: U.S. Junior Nationals - 5th in duet with Sarah Felix, 10th in solo. U.S. Western Zone Championships - 1st in solo, duet and figures. U.S. Open - 3rd in junior team competition with the U.S. Junior National Team.
2006: U.S. Junior Nationals - 12th in duet with Sarah Felix, 17th in solo. U.S. Age Group Championships - 1st in duet, 2nd in solo, 1st in figures.
2005: U.S. Junior Nationals - 15th in duet with Sarah Felix. U.S. Age Group Championships - 3rd in duet, 9th in solo. U.S. Open - 9th in duet.
Other honors: Named 2006 U.S. Western Zone Athlete of the Year.
While in Colorado Springs, Urata went through a regimented training program.
Their days were broken up into several intervals of three to four hours of exercise with meal breaks in between workouts. The athletes worked out about 11 hours per day, five days a week with half days on Saturdays.
"We had a very vigorous training schedule," Urata said.
The training did come with some breaks, however.
"Every Wednesday night was a lot of fun," she said. "At the Olympic center they would have big barbecues and karaoke parties."
Eating at the center was not all about buffet-style meals, though.
At the Olympic Training Center, diet and nutrition is taken very seriously.
"There was a nutritionist who talked to us about portion sizes and proper intake of proteins, carbohydrates and stuff," Urata said. "The food was always prepared in a healthy way to promote quality. We didn't have to cook, which was nice, and they always provided Powerbars, protein bars, and Poweraid during workouts."
Urata's goal is to swim at the summer Olympic games. She thinks she will be able to better pursue her goals as she familiarizes herself with the routines and patterns required of the U.S. Senior National Team.