London-Bound: An Interview With Mary Killman, Olympic Synchronized Swimmer
Mary Killman will fulfill a lifelong dream when she competes in the London Olympics this summer. But for the 21-year-old member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, it just won't be in the sport she originally hoped it would be.
Killman and her partner Mariya Koroleva will represent the United States in the synchronized swimming duet category. When she was younger, Killman, who was born in Ada, Oklahoma, had hopes of competing in the Olympics as a swimmer. But she gave up her competitive speed swim career at the age of 15 to concentrate on synchro.
"I took to the water like a fish," Killman said. "I originally wanted to go to the Olympics as a swimmer. It's a different sport now but I'm still living the dream."
Killman and Koroleva will be the only American representatives in the sport at the London Games. The duet competition will feature 24 entrants and countries that did qualify for this category can only send one duets team. The Americans were not one of the eight clubs that qualified for the team event.
Also, the solo division at the Olympics was eliminated after 1992.
Killman took up synchronized swimming at the age of 11. Yet she kept up her competitive swim career at that point. And she would do so for another four years, until she won a national age-group syncrho championship. Then, at that point she decided to focus on her synchro career.
Killman and Koroleva have only been competing together since this past August. So some people were surprised they were able to register a seventh-place finish at the Olympic qualifying meet this past April, which was held in London, at the same pool where the Olympics will be staged.
Killman was asked why Koroleva and herself have found success in the duet category.
"Our initials are the same," she joked.
"We're both able to pull the best out of each other," she added.
The Olympic qualifying meet though wasn't the first time Killman and Koroleva managed a somewhat surprising placing.
"We had only been together for a month and a half when we went to the Pan Am Games (in Mexico last October) and we pulled off the silver medal," Killman said.
The American duo will be up against some other participants in London who have considerably more experience together. For some of the duets this will be either their second or third Olympics.
This helps explain why Killman said the Americans are not necessarily aiming for a particular placing. "This is our first Olympics for both of us," she said. "I just want to be able to get out of the water and know I've done everything possible. It's just such an honor being able to represent your country."
And what about the chances of returning home with a medal?
"I'm always aiming for the podium," Killman said. "Who knows? It's always a possibility."
The Olympic duet competition is scheduled for Aug. 5-7.
Before participating in London, however, Killman and her partner are expected to compete in both the Spanish Open in late June and at the Swiss Open in early July.
Travelling is nothing new though for Killman. She's lived in 42 different states. The family moves were necessary as her father was a project manager for cell phone towers.
Killman is currently living in Indianapolis, the headquarters for USA Synchro and where the national team trains. Her roommate is the Russian-born Koroleva, who came to the US at the age of nine.
"We live together and we do everything together," Killman said.
But one thing they won't be doing in London is secretly placing a message somewhere on their swimwear. Due to stringent sponsor rules, Killman admitted in the past she has been forced to hide the initials CPN (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) she has occasionally placed on her swimsuit in honor of her heritage. Killman said it's unlikely she'll try to place the initials on her gear in London as her partner is not Native and since they'll both be representing the U.S.