USC's Morozov on the Fast Track to Big Success

by Ryan Reiswig

Regardless of the sport, very few athletes enter Division-I collegiate athletics and immediately perform at an elite level.

For most freshmen, there is an adjustment period in their first year where they'll either redshirt and learn by watching, or they'll play sparingly and get a small taste of the action when they're lucky enough to get their number called.

Some are talented enough to start their collegiate career and make contributions to their team from day one.

But for a select few, they enter college and take their sport by storm, absolutely dominating their competition.

In the case of USC's Vladimir Morozov, he lands in the latter category. As a true freshman, Morozov has already broken two school records in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle and is looking forward to helping his team at the 2011 NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minn., March 24-26.

If it weren't for his mother, Morozov wouldn't be at USC. In fact, he wouldn't even be in the United States if it weren't for her.

Growing up in Novosibirsk, Russia, he grew up primarily under his mother's watch after his parents divorced when he was one. After his first semester of high school, he took the 5,000-plus mile journey with his mother to Southern California. Her influence on his swimming career didn't stop there.

Morozov tried many other sports along with swimming growing up such as volleyball, basketball, weight-lifting, even ballroom dancing. His mother knew which sport was his strongest though, and kept him focused.

"My mother kind of made me stick to swimming," says Morozov, a kinesiology major. "Sometimes I'd skip practice but then my parents would say, 'Go to practice! What are you doing?'"

Just because he was good at swimming didn't mean he enjoyed it. Swimming wasn't his favorite sport early on and he had his own reasons for wanting to skip swim practice as a youngster. He also had his own reason for not giving up.

"The pools are not that great back in Russia and it's cold so it wasn't that much fun," says Morozov. "I was pretty good when I was little. I kept winning, so being competitive kept me in the sport."

Morozov's winning continued throughout high school at Torrance High in Torrance, Calif., where he was a five-time prep All-American. As time drew closer for him to choose a university, it was no surprise that letters from around 30 colleges began filling up the family mailbox. But he already knew where he was heading for his higher education.

"I knew that I wanted to go to USC, so I didn't take any other trips," says Morozov, who was also recruited by Pac-10 schools Arizona and Washington. "It's in Southern California, I like the beach, I like the weather, and the program is really good. I thought it was the best choice."

Along with the college experience Morozov is enjoying, he's also personally benefitting from collegiate swimming as opposed to club swimming.

"First of all it's great training," says Morozov. "If you're in a club, you can do whatever you want, you know, skip workouts. Here, the coaches on the team make you work really hard. Wake up every morning, train together and try to do your best in the weight room and the pool. Also the aspect of being a team, being a teammate, it's something that I believe I'll never have after my collegiate experience."

For someone that relocated from across the globe less than five years ago and is now thriving in his first year in college, Morozov has made it look easy. Things weren't as simple right after the move though.

"The first year (in the United States) it was really hard because I didn't know any English," admits Morozov. "I took a lot of classes in high school so I learned it pretty quick."

Speed is something all too familiar to Morozov. Along with swimming at a fast pace, he's quickly advancing through the swimming ranks,  and he will be going to the Russian trials just three weeks after the NCAA Championships. His goal is to make the Russian Olympic team next year. This isn't his only career goal though.

"I would like to become a world champion, an Olympic champion, set some records," says Morozov, a former member of the Russian national team. "That's what I'm training for."

With all those goals, will he be the next Michael Phelps?

"I'm not sure because I don't IM," says Morozov laughing. "I only do freestyle but maybe the next Jason Lezak or Alexander Popov (both Olympic gold winners), we'll see."

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