Home » Katrina Konopka - World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan

Katrina Konopka - World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan

On the 4th of July, I was fortunate enough to be one of 20 females in the country receiving an email inviting me to compete in World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan for swimming.  The team had been selected by USA Swimming at Phillips 66 Nationals in Indianapolis, IN in June.  The selection requirements included being a top two college age swimmer in an individual event.  I was invited to compete in the 50 m freestyle, as well as the freestyle relays.  I was incredibly honored to be selected and was so excited to represent the US in another international competition.  Upon invitation to the team, we were each sent an outfitting box and travel details.  After another month of training, I was headed to Tucson International Airport as a Taipei bound athlete.

On August 15th, I boarded my first overseas flight to Taipei.  I had met up with my teammates from across the country in the San Francisco Airport.  The other athletes on the team were from a wide range of universities, from Stanford to Penn State.  It was an incredible experience being able to compete with many of the people I compete against on a regular basis.  While we are typically against one another, the most amazing feeling was how we all came together as one team to represent the US to the best of our ability.

After a long day of travel, we finally arrived in Taipei, and were headed to the athlete village.  The athlete village is an area of the city that housed every athlete competing in the games.  The World University Games hosted over 20 different sports competing from over 100 different countries.  In the village there is a true sense of comradery as we were housed with Canadians, as well as all of the athletes in other sports from the US.  The village also had a massive dining hall for all of the athletes, coaches, and support staff.  Everyone housed in the village was able to eat every meal there, from 5 am until 1 am.  We had a few days to get acclimated to the new atmosphere and form team bonds before we were headed into competition.  While we spent a majority of our time in the village, they ensured that we were able to learn a bit about Taiwanese culture.  The volunteers working the event taught us a few words in their language that we could use throughout our time there.  We also learned to write our names in Chinese, decorate our own fans, and dance with traditional Taiwanese dancers.  While it was so much fun learning about the culture, we were incredibly excited to start competing.

The first day of competition, I was selected to race on both the preliminary and final 4x100 m freestyle relay.  Walking out on the deck from the ready room, hearing your team chanting USA from the stands is the most surreal feeling.  It is always a dream come true to represent the USA.  Our team was nervous but full of excited energy!  As we stepped up on the blocks, we were between the Japanese and the Russian relays.  After a hard battle, we finished third, bringing home the first relay medal for the US for the week.  I then had a few days off before competing again.  During my break, I was able to relax, cheer on my team, and train.  Finally, it was my turn to compete again in my individual event.  The 50m freestyle was my first international individual event.  As I stepped up to the blocks, the crowd was going crazy.  The energy from the spectators was unreal.  The locals were asking for autographs, screaming your name, and sending good vibes and energy to all of the competitors.  They truly made the meet special as they were so loud, welcoming, and having a great time whether they were athletes, swimming fans, or just excited to have visitors.  In my first individual event, I was able to bring home a bronze medal.  The feeling of seeing the US flag fly for you across a still pool is something of a dream.  It is a feeling that I will never forget, and I could not be more thankful for.  It is something I was able to accomplish while at the University of Arizona and I cannot wait to see what else I will be able to achieve while I am here.