Saveli Yungman's older sister is now a neurosurgeon just beginning her residency in London, Ont.,
He and his parents are proud of what she's accomplished since she came to Prince George as a young girl after the family immigrated from Moscow, Russia. Now, Yungman says it's his turn to make his family proud.
It's safe to say he's already done that.
As one of the senior swimmers in the Prince George Barracudas Swim Club, the 16-year-old Yungman won the 200-metre butterfly event at the age group national championships in a club record time of 2:05.65 in late July in Montreal, improving on a silver-medal result the previous year.
Now, with the new racing season beginning this weekend in Prince Rupert, Yungman has his sights trained making an impact this season as a national-level swimmer worthy of representing his adopted country at international events.
"I'm really excited for all the meets coming up and excited to race and get good best times and hopefully I'll make a junior national team so I can go somewhere and compete with a really high level of athletes," said Yungman. "Winning that gold medal was a really big moment for me. I got a silver medal [at the same event in 2012] and got out-touched at the wall by one second. That really motivated me to to get the gold next year and I was able to get that."
Sterling King is now attending the University of Calgary and Danica Ludlow has moved to Victoria, which leaves Yungman, Josiah Binnema, Haley Black, Patricia Fortier and Hannah Esopenko as the leaders of the club's national-level group.
Barracudas head coach Jerzy Partyka would like to see Yungman attend all nine practice sessions the national-level swimmers have each week at the Aquatic Centre but the coach realizes there are other demands on his free time. As a Grade 12 student at Duchess Park secondary, schoolwork is Yungman's top priority.
"I'd be really happy to get a scholarship in the States or at a Canadian university so I can keep swimming after I graduate.," said Yungman, who turns 17 on Nov. 25.
"It's pretty hard to balance schoolwork and swimming because all the Grade 12 courses give a lot of homework. As soon as I'm done swimming I have to go home and do my homework and sometimes that's really hard because I put so much effort into the pool. But since the beginning of the year I've really been focused on my swimming and putting 100 per cent effort into every lap I do."
Esopenko, 13, won't be among the 20 Barracudas going to Prince Rupert this weekend. Instead she plans to attend a Team B.C. training camp in Richmond that starts tonight. She earned the invitation after capturing a age-group national bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke. She was also fourth in the 50m breaststroke (35.14) and seventh in the 100m breaststroke (1:16.86).
Now in her seventh season with the 'Cudas,, Esopenko is within three seconds of the 2:39 qualifying standard for the senior national championships in the 200m breaststroke.
"I'm at the pool so much, I think I can do it," said Esopenko, a Grade 8 student at College Heights secondary. "I love racing, it just makes you feel really good if you get a best time."
Fortier, Black, Ludlow, King and Special Olympian David Dunn all represented the Barracudas at the Canada Summer Games two months ago in Sherbrooke, Que., and Esopenko looks forward to that same opportunity at the 2017 Summer Games in Winnipeg.
"it's exciting because this is my first Team BC anything," she said. "I would love to learn more about my turns and how to improve them and how to improve all my strokes, and I'll be going there to hear speakers talk about nutrition. It will definitely be a good experience."