That is all it took for Diego Villalobos Carrillo to go from starting artistic swimming to becoming a world silver medalist. And the first athlete, along with his duet partner Itzamary González, to win a medal at the World Championships in artistic swimming for Mexico.
The 18-year-old was all but set on a career in diving until a fateful day in 2020, when artistic swimming came into his life. Barely one year later, he was already competing and medaling at the Junior Pan American Games in mixed duet.
When asked to describe himself, he quickly asserts that he is “a person who likes to have fun and who enjoys what he does at all times.” With a radiating smile and a seemingly boundless motivation, Villalobos now looks forward to competing at his second World Championships in a few weeks, and second World Junior Championships later in the summer. Most importantly, he wants to continue proudly making history and representing his country on the international stage.
Inside Synchro: When did you start artistic swimming?
Diego Villalobos: I started three years ago when I was 15. Before that, I was a diver for over five years. During a diving training session, I met a teammate from the artistic swimming team, and we got along really well. When the pandemic happened, she contacted me to invite me to the team, told me about the opportunities for men in this sport, and that they needed more men for the Mexican national team. She explained to me how everything worked. I thought about it, and this discipline caught my attention, so I tried out and I stayed. I was very attracted to the sport, to the way the swimmers were holding upside down, and to all the movements they were doing with their legs. It is a very beautiful sport. Diving was a stage in my life that I enjoyed a lot, and when I have the opportunity, I still dive from time to time.
IS: So, you started artistic swimming in 2020. One year later, you were already competing at the Junior Pan American Games. And three years later, you were becoming a world silver medalist. This is incredible!
DV: Yes! It sounds crazy, but since I started artistic swimming, I have been training with girls of national team level. So, it has helped me a lot to learn from them. The Junior Pan American Games in 2021 was one of the competitions I enjoyed the most. I remember having a great time, and enjoying every routine I swam.
Winning a medal last year at the World Championships was “Wow”! It makes me really happy, excited, and at the same time it motivates me to keep going. It was something I always dreamed of. The truth is, it was my greatest wish in this sport; I always wanted to be a world medalist, and now I am! I am grateful for the opportunities I have, and for my coaches, my team, and my family for the support. Thanks to all the people who are behind me, it was possible to achieve this.
IS: How do you feel heading into the 2024 season?
DV: 2023 was a difficult season for us, but I always had my mind set on the goal. It was my first year in the senior national team and I was excited to go to my first World Championships. I have always trained to be able to bring good results for Mexico.
For the 2024 season, I hope to participate in the World Championships and the World Junior Championships, and give my best effort in both. My long-term goal is to be able to compete in the 2028 Olympic Games and continue making history.
IS: What can we expect from you in Doha in a few weeks?
DV: I will use the same routines as in the last World Championships. We only made slight changes because the team was focused on obtaining its ticket to the Olympic Games, which it did!
IS: What do you like most about artistic swimming?
DV: To be able to express with your body what you want, to be able to work with the music and make the movements fit the rhythm and make the synchronization with the other swimmers work. Moreover, I always like my routines to be about something. Being able to carry a Mexican theme and convey the culture in my routines is very important to me.
IS: What does it mean to be a male artistic swimmer in Mexico?
DV: The truth is that I am proud to be a pioneer in this sport for my country. I have never been discriminated against. On the contrary, I have always been very supported by people. That inspires me to continue, and to be able to set a good example for future generations to follow. The opportunities for men in this sport are growing, which gives me a lot of joy. I hope to swim some team routines in the future.
IS: What is your life like outside of the pool?
DV: My training sessions are in the morning, and in the afternoons, I dedicate myself to school. I just finished high school and am excited to start university this year.
IS: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the artistic swimming community?
DV: Don’t stop fighting for what you want, always look to make your dreams come true, just as I was able to. We all can!
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Cover photo: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia
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