Malden High School’s Swim team splashed past everyone’s expectations this season with their accomplishments, winning first place in the GBL, rewarding them with great recognition, and causing many memories to be created. This could not have been achieved without the mentorship and guidance of one of their senior captains, Joao Santos.

Santos’ commitment to the sport began his sophomore year, with his peers' influence and encouragement from his father who swam in high school. Santos always had an interest in swimming from the time he was about seven years old when he first learned the basics.I believe that a bunch of factors brought me to choose this sport. The community, morale, and general physical development are amazing,” claimed Santos.

Senior captain Joao Santos groups with his teammates on his senior night. Photo submitted by Santos

Fellow captain Joyce Zhou has worked closely alongside Joao for three years, allowing her to see him grow into his role this year. “Joao’s passion for swim has evolved a lot over the years he has swam. He started off as a sophomore who didn’t know all the techniques and strokes of swim, but has become someone who has come to learn and excel in each of them,” said Zhou. “He works hard to improve every day and puts in all his effort,” said Zhou.

Joao Santos and his teammates posing for a mirror photo after a game. Photo submitted by Santos

“I first met Joao during captain's practice during our sophomore year. He was nervous but was learning and willing to learn more,” explained captain Larissa Retamero Granja, who has also seen Santos’ dedication to the sport since their sophomore year. “He is entertaining and unserious and I mean that in the nicest way possible. He made the season not boring, especially during practices.”

Despite Santos’ success in this sport, the pathway to it was not always clear for him. “I’ve always been moving around from sport to sport to see what I enjoyed most. As a kid, I played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and more. They were all enjoyable in their way, but I wasn't the greatest runner,” said Santos. He believed that “[my] next option was something that was not on land, swimming. I enjoyed the sport more as I would not feel hot, but I would still be tired. It was more comfortable for me in some ways.”

“Joao was always seemingly the one who was the leader of groups, the one who puts themselves out there and makes sure everyone is on track,” expressed Zhou. “Ever since becoming a captain, he has become someone who reaches out to everyone to make sure they’re doing well, checking up on our teammates and even fellow captains. He makes sure to include everyone and makes sure no one is left behind.”

“He definitely shows the swimmers that they can let loose during practice and meets. We're all nervous before swimming at a competition, but he knows how to make us not nervous,” Granja said.

Left to right: Senior Stanley Yip, Junior Gordon Zeng, and captain Joao Santos bonding and singing together. Photo submitted by Santos

When Santos was chosen for the role of captain, it came as a shock to him that he’d been picked. “When I became captain, it was a surprise to me. I've always been a little bit of a slacker and someone who throws jokes around. In the beginning and even now, I was not the fastest swimmer in anything. I was just a bit above average in some events. When I was chosen captain, no reason in my mind could explain why I was chosen,” said Santos.

Despite his disbelief, Santos found that “being a captain is not about being the best but pushing others to be their best. It is doing everything in the background to help others, even yourself, to do amazing. I was surprised and happy, but now I am more grateful for this experience than anything else.”

Santos describes the feeling of swimming in water as a phenomenal experience. “When swimming in the water, you can't hear much, but as soon as you take a single breath, incredible screams from teammates are heard. Everything around you roars for moments as you swim and that pushes me personally to do even greater,” Santos expressed. 

Santos’ journey with this sport has come a long way, especially in recent years as he’s grown into his leadership role as a captain. His sportsmanship and ability to connect with his teammates have aided him in his relationship with the sport.

“The people you find in this sport are all incredible in their respect, whether it be your teammates or those you go against,” Santos stated. “I found myself swimming with a passion and being able to talk to my opponents as though they were also on my side. As I swam more and more, I found that the people around me were all determined to achieve their goals, and that can rub off very well.” 

“My biggest piece of advice would be to understand your limits and how to grow with them. People never see how much they can do because they think their bodies and minds won't function. If you find a sense of control and determination, I think any goal can be achieved. There will always be time as long as you spend it on the right things,” affirmed Santos.

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