COLUMBIA — Missouri senior Lauren Lavigna hopes a lifetime of swimming leads to her ultimate goal, the 2012 Olympics.
Lavigna began swimming before she could talk, began taking lessons when she was 2 and started competing at 6 for the Gator Swim Club in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“The first time I took her swimming, she didn’t want me to leave her side; she just clung to me," her mother, Carol Lavigna, said. "But after the third time she flipped the other way and screamed, 'Mom, go. Leave me alone.' Within a few times she just loved it.”
In high school, Lauren Lavigna’s nickname was "the fish." While the name has not stuck with her through college, it coincides nicely with a tattoo she has of a koi on the left side of her body.
“I just like the symbolism of the koi fish. It symbolizes good luck and the fight through things,” Lauren Lavinga said. “Plus I just love fish in general.”
When the search for the right college began, she looked carefully for a swimming program she thought could help her be successful.
“I ultimately picked Mizzou because of the great team and high expectations the program set, not only in swimming, but in school as well,” Lauren Lavigna said.
Now as a senior on the Missouri swim team, she has participated in the 2009 Fina World Championships, is a Canadian national record holder in the 200-meter backstroke and has been on the Canadian national team for two years in a row.
“It's just so nice to see your children reaching their goals," Carol Lavigna said. "I’m envious of her, in a way, for finding her passion because a lot of us don’t find that. It's her passion that blows me away.”
Qualifying for the Canadian Olympic team has been Lauren Lavigna's dream since she was 12. After making the Canadian national team the past two years, competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London has become more of a reality.
"She has gotten better this year, and if she continues to do what she is doing and stays on track, then she absolutely has a chance. She will just keep getting better and better," Missouri coach Greg Rhodenbaugh said.
The Canadian Olympic Trials at the end of March 2012 will determine if Lauren Lavigna obtains her goal. She plans to graduate next year with a double major in psychology and sociology, after which she will return to Vancouver to focus solely on her training.
“It is my dream to go to the Olympics because it would be an absolute honor to represent Canada at the highest level of sport in the world," she said. "Nothing is bigger than the Olympic Games, and to reach that goal would be an amazing accomplishment.”
If she is successful, Lauren Lavigna said she will add to her body art. If she makes the Olympic team she plans on adding a tattoo of the Olympic rings.
“I am extremely proud of what I have achieved so far, but I don’t dwell on my success because I feel I have a lot of room to grow and succeed as an athlete,” Lauren Lavigna said.