Fueled by his love of the water, Stephan Lukashev (10) stands on the edge of the starting block, anticipating the buzzing sound that signals the start of the 100-meter butterfly.
For the past nine years, Lukashev has devoted himself to the water, which has led to many victories in his impressive swimming career thus far.
“I started [swimming] around the age of seven at [the University of California, San Diego] just to learn how,” Lukashev said. “I was always a kid that was fond of the water. Whenever I was in our pool I would always jump around and kind of adapt to the situation.”
Since then, Lukashev has been incredibly dedicated to the sport, practicing at least eight times a week, often several times a day, and also on the weekends. In weeks with scheduled swim meets, he practices overtime. Balancing swimming and school, Lukashev has developed time-management skills he may not have picked up without his rigorous schedule.
“[A busy schedule] really organizes you to be efficient, get as much work done as possible, maximize every second of the day, [so] instead of not doing anything in class, you sit down and concentrate to get ahead,” Lukashev said.
Not only has he developed stellar organizational skills, but the time he has spent swimming has given him a unique appreciation for every minute in a day. For him, a millisecond can be the difference between a win and a loss.
“There’s a lot of work that gets put in for [what is] little and insignificant time for others and I think that really gives me a higher and deeper understanding of time and how each little millisecond or hundredth of a second is significant,” Lukashev said.
A buzzer sounds, prompting Lukashev to launch headfirst into the water. Using every muscle in his body, he propels himself down his lane, speeding past his opponents along the way.
Lukashev is no stranger to victory. In his nine years of swimming, he has won TPHS’ Freshman of the Year award and is currently ranked as the number one 100-meter fly swimmer in San Diego and Imperial Counties. He is also no stranger to competing at a high level, as this past summer, he competed in the U.S. Junior Nationals in East Meadow, New York. In addition, he swam for the Swiss national team while living in Canton of Vaud in Switzerland for two years, which gave him the unique opportunity to travel throughout Europe.
“We sometimes went to Spain to train, or France, or Hungary … it was a really fun experience where you could just train, eat and relax without your parents and [it’s] just you, your friends and your coach,” Lukashev said.
He reaches the wall, executing a quick flip turn and powering himself toward the other end of the pool to complete the last half of the race.
Despite his numerous victories and the camaraderie he feels with the friends he has made through the sport, his swimming career has not always gone swimmingly.
“You’re spending hundreds of hours training for maybe half a second, and sometimes you don’t reach that goal immediately, and you expect that after months of practice [trying] to drop [your] time,” Lukashev said. “The hardest part is keeping yourself focused [enough] that you … keep working [so the] results will come.”
His love of the water and unique talent in the sport, however, outweigh the strenuous work required for the sport, which he hopes to continue in the future.
“I plan on swimming through high school and college and possibly seeing where that takes me because swimming is a good thing that keeps me scheduled and is helpful for me,” Lukashev said.
Lukashev is hoping to continue his success in the upcoming CIF state meet and other national tournaments.
“[I’m excited] because these are the best of the best, Lukashev said. “These are kids that are the fastest in this country, so it would be fun not even getting a medal but just racing against kids of a lot higher level which brings out the best in me.”
In the last stretch of the race Lukashev kicks into gear, pushing himself forward until he reaches the wall, marking the end of the race. He surfaces to the sounds of cheers from his coaches and teammates, adrenaline and a feeling of accomplishment coursing throughout his body.