Carmen Ung’s story is the perfect example of a champion in the making. She is a freshman at PCC, but has already broken two school records: 100 breaststroke — which she held from almost all the previous competitions she was in and breaking her own school record over time — and 200 breaststroke from the record set two years ago by Jocelyn Jo.
Ung also won all three events she participated in at the South Coast Conference (SCC) Championships, taking gold in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke en route to winning the swimmer of the year award.
“She’s the best ever in the history of PCC by breaking the school record,” said coach Terry Stoddard. “We set the standards for breaststroke here at Pasadena City College. At the State Championships meet, she was only .05 [seconds] off of our school record in the 53 [yard], so she almost had a clean sweep. She was second in the 100 breaststrokes , fourth in the 53 the first day, and fourth in the 200 breaststrokes on the last day.”
Carmen Ung first started swimming when she was really young, only five years old at the time. She was learning how to swim because her parents thought that it was something really important to learn as a child, and it also developed her lungs.
“When I was younger, I would get sick a lot and my lungs would always close up from coughing too much,” Ung said. “So, the doctor told my parents to put me into swim lessons.”
She began to take swim lessons every summer. Her parents now tell her that she didn’t like swimming when she was younger, she didn’t like being in the water so much. But then, when she was in the 8th grade, she told her parents that she wanted to join the swim team.
This was all her decision, because according to Carmen, her parents never really pressured her into doing anything. Whatever it was that she wanted to pursue, they would support her unconditionally. Swimming was one thing she wanted to do, because she thought that it would be really good on her college application, so she started going to a local club city team in Monterey Park, and that’s when she began to develop a passion for it. After that, it was all about swimming to prepare herself for the high school swim team.
“Working hard, training, going to swim meets it was always fun, and the cultural aspects, too.” Said Ung. “It really makes swimming worth it. Stress motivates me, and sometimes it takes a toll on me.”
Ung has been swimming in competitions since she was in 8th grade, and for many competitive swimmers it’s actually very late, most swimmers start in elementary school, so this is her 6th year.
“One of the biggest driving factors for me was proving to myself and to my peers that you don’t need to start swimming competitively since you’re five or six years old,” Ung said. “It just takes motivation, drive, hard work, and sacrifice; all that into getting to where you want to be.”
Carmen said that ever since she started, she has always wanted to prove that. And so, every year she would set a specific goal for herself, it’d be kind of a deadline. So one year, she would pick a specific summit that she wanted to qualify for.
“There are different levels of swimming;” said Ung. “There are swimming [events] where everyone can go to, and there are some meets where only people with the qualifying time can go. There are higher and higher levels of standards of meets. Attending certain meets would be my driving factor, so I always push myself every day to sip through to myself and my peers that you just need to work hard.”
Ung was the only girl among all the faster guys when they practiced for the Championships, so she started there building a relationship with the male swim team. There are only four other girls on the swim team, so of course the five of them got close really quickly, especially after their first swimming competition at Fresno, where they stayed in a hotel room all together.
Practicing, swimming, and seeing her teammates every day made her integrated, and she became ‘one of the guys’. Carmen said that she sees the swimming teams longer than she sees her parents. Carmen’s teammates, Michael Humphrey and Harrison Tin think that what she’s done (breaking the school record twice) is an awesome accomplishment, and they also enjoy the fact that she’s always happy and ready to work.
“We met each other at the beginning of the season, which was in January,” said Tin. “She’s a very nice teammate, and we are really good friends. She is the most hardworking person on the team. She comes to practice every day, she works out every detail and she’s also my motivation, because although she’s the only girl training with us, she always tries to catch up on us, and it really motivates me.”
According to Michael Humphrey, Carmen motivates everyone, and she got him to love swimming again. He wasn’t in a very good spot at the beginning of the season, but now he’s in the best shape of his life, because of her and her motivation.
“Carmen is not only my teammate, she’s also my friend.” Humphrey said. “She did not miss a practice during the season, and it shows. It’s crazy how hard she works, and she gets what she wants at the end of the season. I’m very proud of her.”
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