It is commonly noted that the human body is 60 percent water. From a biological point of view, everyone on Earth could say they have water in their blood, but only a few could say they truly have it in their hearts, minds and souls.
Thirteen-year-old Cary, N.C., native Claire Curzan is one of those people. A rising star in the pool as she starts her freshman year at Cardinal Gibbons High School, Curzan’s passion for swimming has been a major part of her life for as long as she can remember.
“My parents wanted me to be water safe at an early age, so I started swimming at the age of three,” Curzan says. “I started competing on my neighborhood swim team, the Reserve Stingrays, at four years old. I have been part of a summer swim team every year for the past nine years.”
Swimming is a family affair for the Curzans. Claire’s brother Sean, who is one year older, is also a swimmer and part of Claire’s early motivation. She wanted to get in the water and com- pete with him. Her competitive spirit kept propelling her forward.
“I really enjoyed my summer swimming and decided to join a year-round program, the Raleigh Swimming Association (RSA) Wahoos, at the age of seven,” Curzan recalls. “Age group swimming allowed me to practice several days per week and complete locally, as well as at the Age Group Championship Meets, also called the Junior Olympics, in North Carolina.”
An Early Scare
Even as Curzan’s skills as a swimmer continued to develop, she and her family discovered that she faced tough physical obstacles with her health.
“I have many allergies, including allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and gelatin,” Curzan explains. “Having severe allergies has made me aware of the foods around me. It has encouraged me to read labels and carry a life-saving EpiPen with me at all times.”
Unfortunately, Curzan discovered one of her most serious allergies by accident and the results could have been tragic.
“At the age of seven, I learned about my gelatin allergy after taking a gelatin-coated Ibuprofen tablet,” she says. I went into anaphylactic shock. There was a 911 call, an EpiPen injection and an ambulance trip to the hospital with an overnight stay. I hope that never happens again.”
Recovering from that experience gave Curzan new motivation, not only to pursue her chosen sport, but also to use her experience to help others.
“I have been able to advocate for a group called Food Allergy Research, Education,” she says. “I have helped raise funds through walks to help others who suffer from life-threatening food allergies.”
Education and Motivation
Each year brings new challenges and new opportunities as Curzan continues to grow as an athlete and as a person. Last fall she joined the Triangle Aquatic Center (TAC) Titans and has been under the tutelage of Coach Rob Norman.
“He has a tremendous passion for coaching, and I enjoy training with him and the other dedicated swimmers at TAC,” Curzan says. “Under Coach Norman’s guidance, three of my teammates and I were able to break the 13-14 girls’ national age group record in the 200-yard medley relay, with a time of 1:42.25, earlier this year.”
Norman is one of many teachers and coaches that have been a part of Curzan’s journey over the years.
“Coach Brent St. Pierre from RSA had a big impact on my swimming,” Curzan recalls. “He believed in me and was always encouraging and motivating me. He was my coach when I made the cut for my first Winter Junior Nationals at age 12.”