LARCHMONT, N.Y. – Maftuna Tuhtasinova, an Uzbeki Olympic swimmer who has trained at the Badgers Swim Club in Larchmont for several weeks, heads home this week to prepare for the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games that begin on July 27.
“I want to thank everyone who has helped me here with the Badgers because I have done very well in the training,” Tuhtasinova said. “I am waiting for my invitation letter from” FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation, or International Federation of Swimming) “and will fly home on July 8 to train.”
Tuhtasinova, who turned 18 in March, came to the United States in late February to work with American coaches. The Uzbek national swimming program does not approach the top level of the sport, so Tuhtasinova’s family reached out to Russian-American swimming coach Igor Shoukhardin, who runs a Brooklyn-based swim club, for assistance in training Tuhtasinova.
"Everyone has helped me and I have made so many friends," the young swimmer said. "I miss my family, but I hope to do well and maybe go to a college in the United States."
Tuhtasinova, who lives in Uzbekistan's capital city of Tashkent, trained in Yonkers where she met Mount St. Vincent swimming coach Michael Loeffler, who referred the 5-foot, 3-inch, 105-pound backstroke specialist to John Collins and his Badgers program. Collins has coached Badger swimmers to several World Championships and to Olympic medals in four of the last five Olympic Games and coached the United States Women’s swim team at the 2007 World Championships, where Tuhtasinova competed.
“We put her in some local meets in late April and early May and a major meet at Rutgers over Memorial Day weekend,” Collins said of Tuhtasinova. “My guess is that she'll do well. She's enthusiastic and has some talent and some big time experience,” he said in reference to the2007 World Champs in Melbourne, Australia.
Tuhtasinova, who trained for several weeks and competed in Badgers Olympic Trials, lowered her 200-meter backstroke time to 2:21.7 over a two-month period, then continued to cut seconds off her personal best until she clocked a 2:14.7 in time trials at Lehman College two weeks ago to reach the Olympic qualifying time.
"I've improved my best times a lot," Tuhtasinova said. "I want to thank everyone who has helped me and I will send you messages when I get back home."