Sophomore swimmer Mohammad Esmaeilian is no stranger to adversity or hard work. With an impressive 2014 season that saw the determined swimmer qualify for the 2014 State Championships in his rearview, the Lancers’ 2015 captain and rocket in the water has his eyes set on another State Championship appearance.
This time Esmaeilian hopes to return to PCC with numerous titles.
Born in Iran, the 24-year-old Esmaeilian has been swimming competitively since he was 15 years old but credits head coach Terry Stoddard for much of his recent success.
“Coach Stoddard is an amazing coach,” Esmaeilian said. “He’s a wonderful coach and he does everything that he can for the team and the swimmers. He motivates us to continue to improve. He’s such a wonderful coach and I’m so grateful to be his swimmer.”
After coming to America in 2012, Esmaeilian took a two-year break from the water to learn English and enroll in school. The biology major credits the Community Education Center (CEC) and the English as a Second Language program (ESL) for helping him learn English and getting him on course to transfer.
“At the beginning it was tough,” Esmaeilian said. “I didn’t swim for two years almost because I didn’t know any English. I couldn’t speak English at all.”
Despite being fairly new to the school and the country, Esmaeilian excelled and quickly became the Lancers’ top male swimmer, reaching last year’s state championships. Although making it to the state championships is a great accomplishment itself, Esmaeilian didn’t have the performance he anticipated so he changed his training regimen to include weight lifting and more days, which Stoddard believes has helped tremendously.
“Last season he had limitations because he was in the ESL program and we were limited with our dry land program that we can do,” Stoddard said. “He had come out of retirement so he hasn’t been swimming for a while so he had lost a little bit of his strength and I think the biggest difference this year is that he’s benefited from 12 months of a great program. He does it on his own, except for when we’re here. He’s taken seriously his approach.”
“This season I started practicing hard every day so I’m kind of improving from last season,” Esmaeilian said. “I am definitely stronger this year because we are doing weight lifting. Mentally I am a better swimmer.”
Esmaeilian’s determination and ability to lead helped the Lancers’ men’s swim team improve tremendously this year, as evidenced by the Lancers men defeating Chaffey College for the first time in four years. Esmaeilian was instrumental in the victory, racing in three distance events instead of his sprints in order for the Lancers to get the team victory.
“I told the guys ‘Lets beat them [Chaffey],’” Esmaeilian said. “They had more swimmers, but I felt we had better swimmers and we proved that. So Daniel [Medrano] swam three races and I swam three events that I don’t normally swim to help the team get the victory.”
In the 137-122 victory over Chaffey, Esmaeilian helped the Lancers win nine of the 12 individual events raced, including taking first place in three events—the 1,000-yard freestyle (10:51.45), the 50 free (22.45), and the 500 free (5:24.11).
“He’s a real hard worker,” Stoddard said. “He’s been a real catalyst for working hard. He’s here ready to do business, he has fun with his teammates, but he’s a hard worker and that has been contagious to many of the swimmers. He’s our captain, he’s been a very good leader and he leads by example.”
At the 15th Pasadena Invitational, Esmaeilian won the meet’s Crescendo award for the combined fastest time in the 50-yard, 100-yard, and 200-yard freestyle events for the second consecutive year. Esmaeilian finished second overall in the 100 (47.64), third in the 200 (1:44.21) and tied for seventh in the 50 (21.83).
“He is dedicated, goal oriented and determined,” Stoddard said. “He’s tough on himself with practice performance, he’s very focused when it comes to meets, he gets himself ‘race-ready’ and he has a plan and he sticks to it.”
At the South Coast Conference Championships, Esmaeilian dominated his events, becoming the latest Lancer to win two SCC championships under coach Stoddard. A day after winning the 50, Esmaeilian became a double SCC champion by capturing the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:43.21, beating out Lancers teammate Samuel Sanchez (second place) in 1:43.45.
“There are some athletes that sometimes I have to suggest a different event, or a different time or I have to encourage them to be better but Mohammad is the opposite,” Stoddard said. “His goal is to be the best. He wants to be the best that’s competing out there and he wants to win every time he competes.”
An aspiring doctor, Esmaeilian idolizes Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Alexander Popov and plans on one day competing in the Olympics as well.
“My goal is to make the Olympic team for my country if it’s possible.” Esmelian said. “If I can make the cuts for my country I will be able to compete in the Olympics.”
“The difference between a normal athlete and an elite athlete is that a regular athlete sometimes you’re pulling them, whereas an elite athlete you’re getting out of their way and you find yourself sometimes just hanging on for the ride. And Mohammad is an elite athlete.” Stoddard said.
Esmaeilian will get his last shot at redemption at the 2015 CCCAA State Championships April 30 through May 2 at East LA College.