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Roseville teen swimmer helps U.S. conquer world’s best

Sydney Bello qualifies in four events for Deaflympics and seeks more
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Sydney Bello wasn’t the typical child swimming prodigy. She wasn’t splashing around wowing parents and coaches with record-setting times at the age of 5.
In fact, she wasn’t swimming at all.

Bello, who will turn 16 this month, has been swimming competitively for about six years. And here she is, an Olympian. Bello qualified for the 2013 Deaflympics in four events as the United States Deaf Swimming team defeated the mighty Russian squad at the third World Deaf Swimming Championships last month in Coimbra, Portugal.

“I was amazed,” the Woodcreek High School junior said.

Shooting for Olympic times
Amazing also is Bello’s age. She competed at the world championships against swimmers much older. Some in her finals events were in their late 20s. Amazing more so is that Bello’s times could improve to the Olympic level.

“My times aren’t Olympic-quality yet, but there’s a chance, in 2016,” she said. “That’s my goal.”

Debbie Walker is Bello’s coach with California Capital Aquatics. Walker has been a swimming coach for about 35 years. She came to the Sacramento area from Danville and ran the Arden Hills program for 13 years before coming to California Capital Aquatics. She’s been the head coach since 2006.

“What we have to look at is she attended world championships at 15 years old. That is a very young competitor for that level of swimming for deaf swimmers,” Walker said on a hot summer day last week at the Roseville Aquatics Center. “What we want to look at is where can we take from right now how she did and build upon that (toward) the next big competition. We want to be prepared for that.

“In the swimming world, 2012 is huge because of Olympic Trials. Some in our program will try to get Olympic Trials times. She’s in a training group that for some of those swimmers, their goal is to get those Olympic Trials cuts.”

Bello swims 6,000 yards a day times six yards a week, a good 40,000 yards a week, according to her dad, Darren Bello. She runs two or three miles Monday, Wednesday and Friday and does abdominal and leg work Tuesday and Thursday.

Bello is in a family of swimmers. Older sister Allegra was a swimmer and now attends William Jessup University. Younger brother Kaleb, an eighth-grader, swims with California Capital Aquatics. Darren Bello said he was a swimmer, water polo player and surfer in his hometown of San Luis Obispo. Sydney swam at Clovis West High School in her freshman year and began swimming year-round last fall, after the family moved to Roseville.

Walker said Bello’s experience at the world championships has helped her arrive for workouts each day with a different attitude, desire and discipline.

“Our program is six days a week, and two days we swim twice, do a dry-land program ... so her level of training has stepped up quite a bit. In that, what we want to see then is her times start dropping more and more and more,” Walker said. “In the few months I’ve had her, she already started dropping times. So we know we’re on the right track.”

This butterfly sprouts wings
Bello qualified for the finals at the world championships in the 100 and 200 butterfly and the 200 and 400 individual medley. She finished fourth in the 200 fly (2 minutes, 31.94 seconds) and sixth in the 200 IM (2:35.04).

The butterfly is regarded as the toughest stroke, and the 200 is her strongest event. Bello took to the butterfly immediately, and her 200 in Portugal was the just the second time she swam the long-course event.

“I don’t think anybody enjoys and loves (the butterfly), but I do have a passionate thing for going out there,” she said. “It takes a lot of endurance, takes just a lot of mental toughness in keeping the same pace.”

Bello said the U.S. team developed a bond in Portugal, and she still talks to her teammates via Skype.

“The fact we beat them, all those 20- to 40-year-olds. Our coach couldn’t even believe it,” Bello said of national coach Bill Snape. “The team became a family. I really miss it. It was so much fun.”

Hearing loss was discovered early
Darren Bello said he and wife Treena noticed Sydney’s hearing loss when she was 2½ or 3 years old. Doctors told the family Sydney’s hearing was “going away fast,” Darren said. She began wearing hearing aids immediately so she could retain hearing for as long as possible.

“That’s why she has good language,” Darren Bello said.

Sydney received a Cochlear implant when she was 8, and she received a state-of-the-art implant three months ago.

She said she has “a little sound” in her left ear, 5 or 10 percent. She “can’t hear a thing” in her right ear.

When she swims, the implant comes out. Bello can read lips, and her coaches and teammates communicate through a series of numbers when she’s in the water training and swimming competitively.

Bello carries a 3.5 grade-point average. She said she wants to major in business and swim in college and is looking at private schools like Westmont, Point Loma and Biola. She’s also interested in Cornell.

U.S. DEAF SWIMMING
To support Sydney Bello of Roseville and United States Deaf Swimming, visit www.unitedstatesdeafswimming.org.