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Fresh off of NCAAs, Hayon talks competive nature, future goals

Photo courtesy Andrew Hancock

By Riya Misra     3/28/23 9:49pm

All families share a commonality, whether it’s a genetic trait like dimples or habits passed down from parents. For Arielle Hayon, that commonality is swimming. Starting with her parents, who both grew up near the water in Israel, Hayon is now the third of her siblings to swim at the collegiate level.

“My brother, who’s four years older than me, started swimming because he hated running. He just didn’t do any land sports,” Hayon, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. “He started swimming, and he really liked it. And then my sister and I followed him.”

Beside following in her brother’s footsteps, Hayon said that her passion for swimming was also born out of a thirst for competition, one that other sports were unable to satisfy.

“I scored zero points the whole season when I played basketball. But in my defense, I was on an all-boys team … We won the tournament anyway, [I] can’t take any credit,” Hayon said. “I’m a super competitive person and [swimming] allowed me to be really competitive. When I was little, I just loved racing people.” 

Now, 13 years later, Hayon has just wrapped up her second season at Rice, both of which saw her compete at the NCAA championships, albeit with an unexpected sinus infection this year.

“When I look at the times that I produced, I’m like, ‘I produced that having a fever ,’” Hayon said. “It definitely took a lot of mental strength to push through that … I was lucky enough to have my parents there, which was really nice. So they were kind of helping me with [the] little bit more emotional side of like, ‘Damn, I’m sick right now. And I still have to get up tomorrow morning. And I have to somehow put my best foot forward when I feel like crap.’”

Hayon’s parents remain a constant in her swimming career. This summer, Hayon, who is from California but holds dual-citizenship, will take after them once again as she competes in their hometown at Israel’s nationals.

“I’ll be living in the city that my parents are from, which is really cool. Actually, the pool that I’m going to be training at is the pool [where] my mom learned how to swim,” Hayon said. “Full circle, so it’s really exciting. I feel like, for sure I’m doing this for me. But I also feel like in a sense, I’m doing it for my parents.”

Outside of her family, Hayon said that she’s found a thriving support system with her teammates, who keep each other motivated both in and out of the pool.

“I’ve had other people cry for me … It’s because you see all the work that everyone puts in, day in and day out, and how much everybody wants it. Ultimately, our success is everyone’s success,” Hayon said. “Something that I found really unique with this team is [that] we’re all extremely comfortable with each other, which makes for a more fun environment. But it also makes for … a safe environment to open up and to ask for a helping hand if you really need it.”

Looking forward, Hayon said she is hoping for a future with more championships, fewer sinus infections and more contributions to the team that has shaped her.

“I try not to be too results-oriented, because I feel like it kind of puts a lot of pressure on [me] and I already put a lot of pressure on myself. But for sure, a goal that I have is to make a final NCAA and to be an All-American,” Hayon said. “I think that there’s a lot of goals that I have in terms of how I want to be a leader on this team. Not just in the pool but outside of the pool, and how I can better push this team forward.”

Although she’s only a sophomore, Hayon has begun to plan for a potential life out of the pool after graduation. While she’s considering a career in consulting, Hayon said her performance in Israel this summer may impact the trajectory of her swimming career, hopefully paving the way for more international success.

“I definitely do want to take advantage of this time that I’m young and still able to [swim],” Hayon said. “It’s really my only opportunity to do it. Once I’m 30, I’m not going to be able to rip a 0:51.00 fly anymore.”

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