Swimming helps Cole connect after move from Zambia

Mitchell McMillen | The Chronicle

Freshman Mulenga Cole is diving into new waters, continuing his swimming career after traveling across the pond from Zambia to Mason.

Cole’s family moved from Zambia, a country in southern Africa, to Mason this summer to be closer to family and for Mulenga to attend an American high school. Zambia is nearly 8,000 miles from Mason and has a population of roughly 6% of the United States (U.S.) population. The move is an adjustment for a high school freshman, but Cole’s swimming is helping make the transition easier.

Cole competes for the Mason Manta Rays club team and the Mason High School (MHS) swimming and diving team. In Zambia, scholastic swimming teams are not present, and club teams have less access to pools and long travel distances for competitions. Cole said that swimming in America allows him to train and compete at a higher level.

“The competition [in Zambia] wasn’t at a high level,” Cole said. “The facilities weren’t at a high level as well. Clubs didn’t have their own pool. We’d use school pools and mostly just private international schools.”

Cole also has noticed a different style of training that he has experienced since coming to the U.S. In Zambia, Cole’s coaches used an “old” style of training that incorporated hard sets with little rest in between. Cole said the training was very repetitive and caused injuries.

Training in the U.S., Cole has noticed a higher emphasis on recovery. He feels better rested and more able to train at a high level. He also hasn’t experienced any setbacks due to injuries so far in his training.

“I think here there’s more recovery time to actually let you rejuvenate and be able to go back into practice and swim at a high level,” Cole said. “Here, I haven’t felt any injuries. I’m healthy all the time. I feel rested when I go into practice.”

With the change in training style and more time for recovery, Cole said his swimming abilities have improved since his move to the U.S.

Cole hopes to continue to improve to reach his goals. He has aspirations to get as far as the Olympics representing Zambia on an international level but is currently focused on contributing to the MHS swim team.

“There’s some big goals, especially next year,” Cole said. “I’m trying to make it to Worlds next year in February and then hopefully the Olympics. [I have] goals for high school like going to state and swimming for my high school. In Zambia, there wasn’t anything like that.”

Cole’s first competition with MHS is the Canton City Schools Christmas Invitational on December 15-16 at C.T. Branin Natatorium, the site of the annual Ohio High School Athletic Association state championship meet. Competing for a school team is a completely new experience for Cole. He said the energy he feels competing for Mason is on a different level than what he was used to in Zambia.

“The environment, the people, the energy that there is at a high school meet is crazy compared to a club or high school in Zambia,” Cole said.

The change in school structure is something Cole has had to adjust to as well. Cole said that Mason, the largest high school in Ohio, is a drastic change from the school environment he was used to.

Throughout the move, Cole has felt support from Mason helping him transition into his new stage of life. He feels that if he works and trains hard he will achieve the goals he set out to achieve.

“Everything is right there and all you need to do is work for it,” Cole said. “There’s a support that Mason gives you.”

Cole has also spent time living in Tanzania. Since moving to the U.S., Cole has found it difficult to keep in touch with his friends from Zambia and Tanzania due to the seven hour time difference. 

The swim team has given Cole an easy outlet to meet new people and build friendships. He said that having a community that relates to his experiences as an athlete has eased his transition to the US.

“[Swimming] is where most of my good friends are,” Cole said. “[It’s helpful] Being able to move to a new country and have people who know what you do and do the same as you.”