SMC Weekly Fitness: Swimming Sensation Katya Shatalova

You'd never guess that Katya Shatalova was a freshman if you caught her in the water. Her natural stroke and powerful kick keep her moving tirelessly forward, giving her the unrelenting appearance of a seasoned athlete, not a college novice. Although new to Santa Monica, Shatalova has been competitively swimming her whole life. "I've been swimming since I was nine years old," Shatalova said. "This is my first year in college, but I swam for a Russian swim club before."

Shatalova moved here from Russia just shy of one year ago, quickly establishing herself as one of SMC's strongest natural athletes.

"I really enjoyed SMC's swimming program," she said. "It made me want to come back next year and do better."

While many of our sports stars maintain a strict diet and regimented exercise routine, Shatalova comes by her talents naturally, admitting, "I try to eat healthy, but candy is my weakness. I never eat fast food, like burgers and fries, but I do like to eat sweets."

While some might expect a rigorous training regimen, Shatalova simply focuses on the sport itself. "I just do swimming. I work, go to school and swim," she said.

Shatalova may spend her free time in the water, improving her lap times, but her dedication paid off when she took first place in every event she competed in at last month's Citrus College Invitational swim meet.

Her first-place Citrus College mile time was an impressive 19:29, but at this year's Western State Conference Swimming Finals, she found that the bar can be set ever higher. "The best distance swimmer in the state swam a 17-minute mile," she said. "I can drop 30 seconds in a semester, but not 2 minutes."

Shatalova recognizes the challenge and she's willing to meet it head on. "I know I can do better," Shatalova said. "I have all the abilities for it; two legs, two arms, and a great coach."

Shatalova doesn't hesitate to credit Coach Contarsy with her athletic development. "Athletes are treated differently [in America], or maybe I just got lucky with the coach. Steve really talks to me and makes me believe in myself. I had a coach in Russia who didn't care what I was feeling, or if I was upset."

Now that the swim season has finally ended, Shatalova plans on catching up on her academic studies. "I can focus on my schoolwork and pick a major," she said, which apparently presents more of a challenge than swimming for a mile straight. Last month, Shatalova was convinced she would pursue a degree in kinesiology, but it seems her decision has changed. "Yesterday I thought about being a psychologist," she said. "It changes all the time."

Some things may change for Shatalova, but nothing is going to keep her out of the water. Swimming is what keeps her going.

"I felt like I made the right choice, moving here. I left everything behind. It's still kind of hard for me, but the swimming helps a lot."