October 30, 2012

Sophia Yamauchi: A Great Example

Sophia Yamauchi lives her life by a simple philosophy: “Don’t let the challenge become an excuse.”

In a sport that requires unparalleled levels of commitment, Yamauchi – junior co-captain of the 2012 women’s swimming and diving team – strives for excellence daily in and out of the pool. One of the crown jewels of head coach Gregg Wilson’s illustrious program, Yamauchi has consistently risen to the challenges presented to her, both as an athlete and as a leader.

Yamauchi grew up in a swimming family – her mother is a coach, and her older sisters were both swimmers.  The youngest of three sisters, Sophia always viewed her sisters as role models.

“My older sister Penelope swam for Arizona State,” said Yamauchi. “She is three years older than me and I always wanted to be like her and do the same things she did.”

Following in Penelope’s path, Yamauchi began swimming on a club team at age eight and immediately adopted the positive attitude possessed by her sisters. Swimming taught Yamauchi how to be dedicated in the pool and in the classroom at a young age.  

Yamauchi quickly learned that she possessed the pedigree to become an elite swimmer, but as any swimmer will tell you, individual talent is rarely enough to get to the top.

“Most of my motivation comes from my teammates,” said Yamauchi. “We all have the same goals, and working hard every day helps us push each other.” 

“I love being around this environment because it is so inspiring,” she continued. “My team is full of amazing people.”

As a captain, Yamauchi expresses her commitment and leadership by cheering on her teammates and setting a great example in practice daily. 

“Our men's and women’s teams are so close, and connected, due to practicing together,” said Yamauchi. “UCSB stood out to me because I felt I could come here and instantly be a  part of the family, and succeed.”

Yamauchi arrived at UCSB with average times, but a great mind set. Hard work and a drive to be the best – as well as top-notch coaching from Wilson – has propelled her to elite status.

“After going to a swim meet and doing well or recording a best time, I get a sense of fulfillment which is very gratifying and addicting,” said Yamauchi. “I think a lot of the credit should go to Gregg Wilson, he is an amazing coach.”  


Yamauchi parlayed a fantastic sophomore campaign in which she finished the 2011-2012 season by placing first in the 200 individual medley (1:58.56), second in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.09) and second in the 200 breaststroke (2:13.74) at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship into a chance to compete in the NCAA Championships and the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“Ever since high school, my goal was to go to NCAA and Olympic Trials,” she said. “Going to the Olympic Trials was an experience that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget, it gives me chills just talking about it.”

“I was in shock of where I was, I couldn’t believe I was there competing for my team,” said Yamauchi. “It was amazing to be there with 17 other Gauchos."

Yamauchi has a goal of not only attending NCAA's in her two remaining seasons, but also placing in the top 16 in the events she qualifies for, which would earn the team points.

In addition to her work in the pool and in the classroom, Sophia recently became an intern for UCSB Athletics Communication department and aspires to work in media relations in the future. Although she doesn't see herself swimming competitively after college, Yamauchi will consider trying out for the Olympics in 2016.

Yamauchi has learned how to set goals and how and reach them.  Her leadership skills not only teach others on the team to have a positive outlook in their swimming, but also in their future endeavors.

Even when she races ahead – in the pool, in the classroom, in life – she always brings her teammates along for the ride.

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