TAMPA, Fla. – Germany, Japan, Russia, Japan, and Germany again.
And now Tampa.
Hana van Loock spent her childhood moving between a variety of countries because of her father’s job, and family requirements, however, she always had one constant — swimming.
Now, the passion her mother first introduced her to at only a few months old has caused van Loock to move yet again. This time, the veteran swimmer has chosen to pursue her dream by competing at the collegiate level for the University of Tampa.
“If I’m going to the U.S., I want to go someplace warm,” she said, smiling. “Tampa was perfect for me because I’m a business major and they have a really good business college, and the swim team is a really good Division II swim team.
“That was just perfect for me.”
For the first time, the freshman is learning to adjust to American culture while balancing student life and training for the NCAA championships. Luckily, she’s surrounded by a new, supportive team that’s helping her make the transition.
“Everywhere you go, your swim team is there for you,” she said. “The team is the starting point to find friends, and when I came here they were very (welcoming). They’re helping my English get a lot better, and it’s good to have them.”
The two-event athlete is also feeling at home with her new coaches, who she believes are already helping her become better at freestyle and backstroke in the short time they’ve worked with her.
“In backstroke, I don’t have straight arms so they yell at me to keep my arms straight,” she said, looking past the pool’s blue water into the early morning sun.
“In freestyle, I have to reach further. I’ve changed a lot and try to do a lot of things differently. I trust in the coaches a lot, so I try to do what they tell me.”
On top of the dedication she has to her new family in Florida, van Loock is also competing to make the mom who got her into swimming proud back in Germany.
“She wants to visit me in Tampa next year and she’s going to see me swim back home in the summer,” she said. “I’m going to swim at the German nationals in July.
“I got better here. According to the conversion times (from metres to yards), I got faster. I just want to improve myself and maybe get a medal at nationals.
“That’s the goal.”