Going for Gold: Former FCPS Athletes Achieve Olympic Dream

Every four years, the world’s best athletes pack their bags, board a plane and embark on the journey of a lifetime to the Olympic Games. This year, some of the remarkable young men and women heading to Tokyo are graduates of Fairfax County Public School. Below, they talk about their memories of FCPS and their hopes for the Games which kick off on Friday, July 23. Make sure to cheer them on!

André Seliskar

Seliskar celebrates his participation in the 2021 Olympic Games at the trials in Omaha, NE. (Photo courtesy of Justin Casterline)

Andrew Seliskar, a 2015 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), will swim for the United States as part of the 4×200 relay team.

Seliskar is heading to his first Olympics after a successful college career at the University of California at Berkeley, where he won four individual national titles and hoisted the NCAA Tag Team Trophy in 2019. In high school, Seliskar established the record of the public high school of the United States in the 100 yards breaststroke with a time of 53.24 seconds. He also swam for the very competitive Nation’s Capital Swim Club and devoted a lot of time to his university studies; but Seliskar says some of his favorite memories are the Friday night encounters depicting TJ.

“Some of these games we’ve had against rival high schools are great memories, and for my swimming career, these are some of the best,” said Seliskar. “It’s not as often now when I swim that we have these playful duels. So those moments in high school were a ton of fun.

Former TJHSST head coach Ian Handerhan says Seliskar entered his freshman year with a lot of talent and it was fun to watch him grow and improve. Handerhan is now the head coach of the nationally recognized club team, the Capitol Sea Devils, and sees a lot of qualified swimmers, but says very few make it so far.

“There are a lot of really fast kids that you train in this area and see, but there just aren’t that many that make it to the Olympics,” Handerhan said.

Seliskar also made it to the Olympic Trials in 2012 and 2016. Now that he’s part of the team, he says he’s working hard to prepare, but he’s also taking the time to enjoy the experience. . In the weeks leading up to the opening ceremony, swimmers from the US team trained in Honolulu.

“These camps are always an electric atmosphere,” said Seliskar. “We have the entire US Olympic team here and we all train in the same pool. These are guys that I have competed against and we are all teammates now and we are working together. It’s a ton of energy. I think everyone is really excited to get to Tokyo and swim as fast as they can.

Chioma Onyekwere

Chioma Onyekwere shows a record.
Onyekwere shows off a record.

Chioma Onyekwere, a 2012 Robinson High School graduate, will throw the disc for the Nigeria team.

Chioma Onyekwere has spent the past year juggling a career as an automotive engineer at Ford Motor Company, planning her wedding and preparing for the Olympics. On top of all this, Onyekwere also faced the grief of losing family members to COVID-19. Last fall, she returned from Detroit to Fairfax County to be closer to her family. Through it all, she continued to practice her discus throw, spending much of her time on FCPS fields and sending videos to her coach for comment.

“I am so grateful that everything went well,” said Onyekwere. “All of the hard work and sacrifices that I have made throughout this time have really worked. ”

Onyekwere attended the University of Maryland, where she had the second highest score on women’s discus in school history and won multiple Big Ten honors. She is also a two-time African champion and currently holds the national record in the discus throw in Nigeria. Onyekwere has dual American and Nigerian citizenship and spent much of his childhood in Africa.

“I feel like Nigeria made me who I am today, so it’s so nice to kind of give back and represent them.”

Onyekwere says balancing a full-time job, family and professional sports career can be overwhelming, but good time management is key. She says her engineering background actually helped her excel at her sport.

“My brain works a little differently. Said Onyekwere. “I will understand that if I throw the disc at this angle, it will fly further because of the speed and the distance, and the gravitational pull. It helps me see things in a bigger picture.

Onyekwere says his next goal is to step onto the podium in Tokyo and break the discus throwing record for all of Africa.

Trevor Stewart

Trevor Stewart in his Team USA uniform.
Trevor Stewart in his Team USA uniform.

Trevor Stewart, a 2016 South County High School graduate, will race for the United States in the 4×400-meter relay.

Trevor Stewart spent the last few years at North Carolina A&T State University, where he recently competed for an NCAA National Championship just two weeks before the Olympic Trials. During his younger years, Stewart spent much of his time practicing karate, but switched to attending his freshman year of high school.

“It hasn’t been easy,” said Stewart. “I had to change the way I eat. Change how I behave. Literally change the way I walk. I used to walk outwards, now I had to put my foot in to get my good form when I ran.

Between the end of his college career and his preparation for Tokyo in a few weeks, Stewart says he used prayer and meditation to keep his mind focused. Even with the speed of execution, he maintained his daily training and remained focused on the basics.

“I’m in a different team now, it’s a different jersey, but I’m running the exact same race. But it feels good, because I can say I’m an Olympian! I worked hard for it. There is always room for improvement, but I have done it now. I made it here.

Stewart’s major was liberal studies, and he hopes to be an author someday. He encourages the young athletes of Fairfax County to never give up on their dreams.

“Work hard, stay focused. When you are dedicated, everything will come to you. said Stewart. “As long as you’re willing to go the extra mile for what you want in life, it will always be there for you.”

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