Nisha Kijkanakorn's Journey to College Women's Swimming



Nisha’s Journey to College Swimming

Few athletes entering a collegiate program have had the opportunity to represent their countries, though this is an achievement that Nisha Kijkanakorn can boast about, in addition to her already impressive swimming CV. Recently accepted to the prestigious University of Southern California swimming program, Nisha’s story can serve as an inspiration for every aspiring swimmer, from the unwilling 6-year-old to the seasoned veteran hoping to get a college scholarship.

Nisha learned all the swim strokes at the age of 6 years old while growing up in Bangkok, though her swimming at this time was limited to school holidays and summer break. However, despite being largely forced by her parents to swim during this time, Nisha soon made the personal decision to take the sport more seriously. She notes, “Training as an athlete reflected my own will to train. I was responsible for my own actions, and it represented another step towards my dream.”

Initially, Nisha swam because her school friends were all doing the same thing, and being an athlete was perceived as being the “cool” thing to do. She enjoyed the environment, being surrounded by friends, all while winning medals and feeling a sense of accomplishment. It was at this point that Nisha began to swim with a club and a more qualified coach, both of which only heightened the feeling of a competitive swimming environment. The competitive environment taught her many things, especially the value of being organized and possessing time management skills. It also allowed her to make new friends across different cultural and social boundaries. Their shared passion has led to deeper connections with others, which Nisha truly values.

This initial enthusiasm was followed by major successes on the national and international stage. Her first major career milestone was qualifying for the Thai junior national swim team in 2016. This marked a turning point in her career, where Nisha went from swimming at the school level to representing her country with the flag on her chest. It was also especially emotional for her as the competition that year was in Thailand. This was followed by her call-up to the senior national team for the SEA games in 2019.

Of course, with the jump to the senior level, there were numerous obstacles to overcome. As she grew more serious in her training and competition, Nisha realized that she had to work to balance school and swimming, as well as grow up both mentally and physically. Even in this obstacle, she saw the value of learning how to work around her schedule. The senior team call-up also brought much more pressure than the friendly meets she had been attending. There was also the weight of expectation at this competition, which only spurred her on to train even harder: “I knew that I could perform well and I wanted to make sure I achieved that.”

The call-up to the senior team was accompanied by a move to Australia in the same year to further pursue a swimming career. Though Nisha was very nervous before the move, especially because of the wildly different culture and country, she notes that her support system helped with the move. This support system was comprised of friends, family, and her teammates, all of which created a welcoming environment which made the transition relatively easy.

The end-goal for Nisha is to swim at the Olympics, though she knows she has a long way to go before this dream can be realized. Presently, she has accepted an offer from USC, her dream school in California. She says that everything about the program excites her, from the training to the coaching to the nationally ranked swimmers she knows she will be training alongside. Of course, there is some pressure and expectation that comes with that, but her mom’s encouragement has often helped along the way. “I want to thank my parents for being supportive of me throughout my career. Being a parent can be a really tough job, waking up early to drive me to training. Babysitting me through weekend competitions. But I want to thank them for everything they’ve done.”

And of course, the world of international swimming and studying in the US was made easier by her experience with the Agency College Recruit: “The Agency has helped a lot with recruiting. Being outside the US system, it can be easy to have no idea what’s going on, who to contact or email, or even what to say in your email. So, starting from zero, I was really nervous and scared. Having that support and guidance from the Agency was really beneficial, and clearly helped me lot in getting into my dream school.”

All dreams of success start somewhere; for Nisha, it began in Thailand, took her to Australia, and now looks set to continue in the US. Where it takes her from here, only time will tell, but hopefully she’ll be gracing our TV screens in the not-too-distant future.