Meet the Bulldog: Darina Khisiamova

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fifth-year senior Darina Khisiamova was given a tour of campus via FaceTime and the rest was history.

"Being international it's just such a great opportunity, I just said yes right away without even thinking," she says.

Khisiamova is one of six international swimmers on Fresno State's team. A native of Russia, she says her days in the pool started at an early age.

"I didn't plan on doing swimming, my mom wanted me to do synchronized swimming because it's so beautiful, my coach noticed me even when I was 6 and he's like wow she's pretty good she should probably join our team and that's how everything started," she says.

Finding success at the collegiate level in a different country took some time for the Bulldog.

"I struggled a lot my sophomore year, not depressed, but figure out who I am and what I want to be in the future, change my mindset and put it in the right way. My junior year I grew up, matured, became more organized, started working with the sports phycologist which helped a lot."

During her junior season, Darina won gold in the 1650 free at the Mountain West Championship and second in the 400 IM.

"It gave me more confidence and I started believing in myself even more that I can do anything that I want. all my teammates told me that I inspired them, and that gave me motivation to work harder, never give up and show everyone that anyone can do anything," she says.

Following her junior campaign, COVID hit.

Coach Fleck says many of her international swimmers did not go home during the pandemic because they feared not being able to get back into the country. Darina had no choice because Russia requires you to renew your visa each year.

"My parents didn't want me to risk staying here with an expired visa. I went there, and the whole process took longer than expected and I was stuck there for more than two months. I got back a week before conference," she says.

This year as a super senior she was able to better prepare for the season training with the team since August, a team that feels more like family for Darina.

"I tell all the parents that I am their mom away from home, you have to take care of the internationals a little bit more because they can't always go home. You have to help them out."
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