The bubbling water around Naomi became quiet, the chaos of her fellow performers falling silent. Outside the pool, her coach, Fransisca Dobrev, had been watching closely.
Realizing that her team’s flawless performance was suddenly breaking apart, she narrowed her eyes to pinpoint where the issue was. What she’d see would send her diving into the churning water.
Naomi Imani always knew she was special. At the tender age of twelve, she already knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.
Unlike many of her female peers who surrounded themselves with doll houses and Barbies, Naomi took a liking to swimming pools, knowing they held the key to her future. She had no clue that they’d also try to claim her life.
Naomi set her sights set on becoming a world-class synchronized swimmer at the age of eleven. Being a swimming coach’s daughter, she grew up around the water, seeing all the magnificent things people did within it.
She saw the beauty that followed synchronized swimming and learned about the discipline that came with it. But although she was determined to join the sport, her parents wouldn’t allow her to participate.
Naomi wanted to become a synchronized swimmer. But her parents discouraged her from the sport, informing her of the many dangers of such an elite activity.
Of course, Naomi did not let up. After months of wearing her parents down, she finally started her training. It was then that she truly understood what her mom and dad were talking about when saying synchronized swimming demanded a lot from a person.
Three essential pillars held synchronized swimming together, according to Naomi. The first was the mental and physical control of one’s body, which demanded a person master their breathing, mind, and every muscle in their body.
Secondly, the sport had no room for error, with each team member needing to work together in a near-blind environment. Finally, there were the dangers of being in a sport with many teammates in close vicinities, such as concussions. Naomi finally understood what she’d swam into.
Regardless of the many dangers and hardships that dared dissuade Naomi from her path to becoming a world-class synchronized swimmer, she doubled down and trained harder than ever before.
It wasn’t long before she found herself in her high school’s synchronized swimming team, representing her school at the state level. Her dreams were slowly becoming a reality, and she knew it wouldn’t be long until she performed on a global stage.
Naomi’s team awed many wherever it went. Her spirited performances, particularly, drew in the interest of notable individuals who’d usher her into the country’s national team.
But although Naomi had reached where she always wanted to be, she’d done it at a terrible cost. Many, including her parents and doctor, told her she’d have a terrible fate if she continued her career.
Naomi was at the apex of her synchronized swimming career. Yet she’d suffered numerous concussions, among other injuries, through the years, each slowly chipping away at her mental and physical wellbeing.
But instead of slowing down as per the advice of her loved ones, Naomi would push herself even harder. She’d keep her injuries to herself instead of sharing them with her friends, parents, coach, and teammates. But one day, everything would catch up with her.
Many synchronized swimmers will attest to the hardships that come with the sport. Each swimmer pushes their body to its limits, regardless of whether they are sick or not.
For Naomi, nothing else mattered than making her country and loved ones proud. She’d fought tooth and nail to where she was and wouldn’t stop no matter how painful it was. She’d realize her mistake too late.
Naomi was at one of the biggest artistic swimming championships in the world when it happened. She, alongside her teammates, had outdone themselves with their routine.
But as they reached the middle part of their performance, a sudden haze took over Naomi’s sight while she was submerged. Her lungs surged as they burned, and darkness took over her sight out of nowhere.
The bubbling water around Naomi became quiet, the chaos of her fellow performers falling silent. She was drowning. Outside the pool, her coach, Fransisca Dobrev, had been watching closely.
Realizing that her team’s flawless performance was suddenly breaking apart, she narrowed her eyes to pinpoint where the issue arose. What she’d see would send her into the churning mass of water.
Fransisca dove into the water in the middle of her team’s performance. She’d seen Naomi’s shadow beneath the bubbling surface. The girl was unmoving, her knees near the pool’s floor with her hands limp by her side.
Fransisca didn’t waste any time. She knew that the lifeguards around the pool weren’t privy to what was happening, given that they couldn’t tell if what was going on was part of the team’s routine or if Naomi was genuinely drowning. Would Fransisca reach her in time?
Fransisca beat her arms and legs as fast as she could, holding her breath until she was close to Naomi. She reached out for the girl, grabbed her, and swam toward the surface.
The lifeguards had already jumped into the pool, helping her bring Naomi to the pool’s side, where they administered first aid. But although they’d do everything they could to resuscitate the swimmer, she wouldn’t come to while in the stadium.
Naomi was taken to the emergency room, where she finally regained consciousness. Her team’s doctor insisted she stays out of the water for a few days while his colleagues monitored her vitals.
The swimmer supported her teammates from the poolside, cheering them to victory. Meanwhile, her doctor’s determined the cause of her fainting, shading light on what happened in the pool.
“Shallow water blackout,” the doctor shared as he perused Naomi’s test results. He explained that the phenomenon is a loss of consciousness because the brain has little oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Since an optimal amount of carbon dioxide usually triggers the body to search for oxygen, a lack of it results in the person “blacking out” due to oxygen deficiency. Although the experience was scary for Naomi, she was lucky that her coach was looking out for her. Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.