For Locals Everywhere: Get Acquainted With The 22-Year Old Olympian, Olia Burtaev

by Zac Bayly on October 26, 2017

Our four campaign stars each embody a value we hold near and dear to our big ol’ hearts: the chef Mitch Orr for his exploration in the world of cuisine, the musician Genesis for his ability to connect with people, the artist Ecca for her sense of community, and finally, the world-famous synchronized swimmer Olia Burtaev. But why Olia? Well, at Local Supply, we prize memories over material possessions, which is why we make beautiful and functional tools to enhance experiences. After twelve years of setting the world alight with her wonderful moves in the water, we thought Olia might have a few thoughts on perspective, not to mention some amazing experiences to share. The 22-year-old Olympian has represented Australia at the 2010 Swiss Open, 2010 FINA Synchronised Swimming World Cup, the 2012 Summer Olympics, and the 2011 and 2013 World Aquatics Championships. What a career! We spoke to the Gold Coast-based champion about her life in and out of the water.

How does it feel looking back on your career as a synchronised swimmer, which started when you were 10, now that you're 22 and have had so much success?
I am very fortunate to have been able to do what I’ve done — and I definitely believe it has taught me things about myself which I don’t think I would have been able to learn if it wasn’t for the sport. There are so many things I want to do in my life, but I think after competing at the Olympics, I have definitely set the bar high for myself… but I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing!


What lessons have you learned over the past 12 years, that you wish your younger self (and other young athletes) knew?
Be patient and confident in yourself. I think that’s something I still need to tell myself! If you put all the hard work in, you can’t go wrong — keep growing, keep trying and it’ll all work out when the timing is right!


When you're working towards being the best, how do you maintain a balance of keeping in the moment and focusing on your current performance versus focusing on long-term goals?
I always take it day by day, otherwise I’d overwhelm myself! I definitely needed to be mentally and physically strong, especially during competition. There was always something to improve on so the best way to do so was to be present and in the moment — and that is what got me to my long term goal!


What value do you see in savoring the experience of competing/training?
They’re the best memories by far!! It’s those memories that taught me how far I could push and challenge myself not only as an athlete but as a person. To make it even better I got to do it with a team of 8-9 other girls! We were a very close group of friends, and we still remain close friends up to these days, which is amazing!

What does it take to be the best?
Synchronized swimming is a continuously evolving sport, so there is always a new skill or technique to master! I think persistence is key, because the training consists of long hours of training sport-specific skills, which can be very draining! Elements of the sport involve flexibility, strength, endurance whilst holding your breath – so there are many things to work on to be the very best!


How do you maintain focus in the moment when competing, shutting everything else out?
It is very easy to get distracted because there is so much happening at synchro competitions! Therefore, being mentally prepared and focused is very important! It comes with practice and being continuously exposed to that type of environment. However, being in a team all the girls are in that position, so it’s nice being able to share that experience and preparation with teammates.


Do you practice any meditation or anything like that to help with your focus?
Mental visualization is definitely something that was practiced. At camps we used to also have training diaries to note down things we want / need to work and improve on, and would hold onto that until competition day.


Where's your favourite place to go and clear your head and gain some perspective?
Currently, the beach or anywhere near the water! I don’t think that’s something that will ever change for me, I love the sound of the water and how peaceful it is when you swim underwater! (I think that comes from breath holding training! Haha!)


What's important to you now compared to when you were starting out?
When I was starting out, I mainly had goals revolving around synchro, especially being so invested in it and it being a full time gig. Synchro was very important to me; it was my escape and a creative outlet for me to express myself. However, now, synchro is definitely still very important to me, but I’ve expanded my knowledge and interests, and want to find what it is outside synchro that still gives me the same drive and motivation! Something that I can do full-time and be passionate about whilst getting the same sense of satisfaction and achievement.


You were the youngest member of your swimming squad at the 2012 Olympics. What was that experience like? Can you tell us any stories that are representative of what that situation looked and felt like to you?
The Olympics were an incredibly surreal experience! It was a lot of hard work and training, but there are so many highlights throughout the whole journey that really make it a once in a lifetime type of experience. My team and I spent a majority of the time training, however, one of the moments which I will never forget is performing our routines. The whole process, from the training to the competition prep, to walking out and competing and finally walking onto the deck after your swim and looking out to the crowd to hear the scores - is a rollercoaster of emotions! It’s all very thrilling, exciting and draining at the same time! 


What is your favourite memory (personal or in terms of competing) from...

.... the 2010 Swiss Open? (or the 2010 FINA World Cup)?
My very first international competition! It was summer in Switzerland too, and I totally fell in love with everything there. This was the beginning of my travels and representing my country internationally, so it was all very new and exciting!


... the 2012 Olympics?
The whole Olympic experience is a memory I’ll never forget! I can’t exactly pinpoint one memory, because there were so many things that made it to be so special! It was moments like the opening ceremony, the village, food hall, Australian reception, competing, watching other sports, making friends and the closing ceremony that made it so spectacular!


... the 2013 World Aquatic Championships?
This was my first big international competition representing Australia in the duet event! A whole different experience and training, since there are only two girls in this event – but the competition was in Barcelona, Spain which I absolutely adored, and is a travel highlight for me!


... your time at the Gold Coast Mermaids Club?
GCMSSC was always home, and it always felt like a we were all a big family based on the gold coast! No matter how training and competing overseas was, I’d return to GCMSSC and everything was exactly the same! So it was definitely a comfort zone and will always be a special place for me.

... this year?
This year has been a big learning curve for me. I think I’m becoming more of my own person and really learning about myself and what drives me and gets me excited about life. I’ve had many highlights this year involving shoots, going into my final year of university, moving out... but shooting for Local Supply in Sydney was a pretty amazing gig! ;)

What's next for you?
What I have planned next is to finish my university studies (Bachelor in Clinical and Exercise Physiology) whilst continuing to explore my passion and creativity and use synchronized swimming as an inspiration in my future endeavors! I don’t have a particular plan of where I’m going, but I’m really excited with the opportunities I’ve been given so far, and want to keep growing as a person, artist and athlete.