Iowa swim captain chooses 'Plan B', never looks back


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It might sound strange to hear an athlete say the sport in which she holds records wasn't her first love. For Iowa swimmer Daniela Cubelic, though, the pool was her second choice — but it was one she doesn't regret making.

The senior captain holds school records in the 100 backstroke, the 400- and 200-medley relays, and the 400- and 200-freestyle relays. But her heart first belonged in the dance studio, not in the water.

"I was all about doing ballet, and I was really invested in that," she said. "Swimming was just something my mom wanted me to do, so I took lessons as a safety thing — to learn and have that skill for the rest of my life."

Eventually, the time came for Cubelic to choose which path she wanted to take: ballet or swimming.

"I actually chose ballet, but once again, my mom made me swim," she said.

Cubelic said she didn't feel forced to swim against her will. It's something she said she enjoyed doing, but it didn't catch her interest as much as ballet did at the time. But looking back, she said, she's glad her mother gave her a push into the water, because there are more opportunities for scholarships in swimming than in pliés.

And in some ways, the late Maryann Cubelic still gives her daughter an extra push.

"I was only 12 years old when she passed away," Daniela Cubelic said. "I know this is something she really wanted me to do, and if there are ever times when I don't want to do it [for myself], I do it for her."

Angelo Cubelic said his wife's death made his daughter both more mature and more prepared for the challenges of being a college athlete.

"She's very independent," he said. "I think she was ahead of other kids; it was a little easier for her to learn how to live in college than it was for the others, because she spent a significant part of her life without a mother."

He said the adjustment was far from easy for his family.

"It was difficult — it still is," he said. "[Daniela] had a great mother. She was always with the kids. She lived for them."

Head coach Marc Long said Cubelic has grown even more mature during her time in the program, and she has taken the mantle of leadership by giving other swimmers the extra push they need.

"She realizes her effect on the team, both in and out of the pool," he said. "That [realization] has progressed each year, and this year she's one of our captains. That's where she has grown the most, from a coaching perspective."

Fellow captain Danielle Carty said Cubelic's leadership skills have progressed more than anything.

"We used to look up to seniors when we were freshmen, and now we're both captains," the senior said. "I see us as role models and as leaders. We've come a long way."

Cubelic said she's happy with her choice to keep swimming, and that it has benefited her greatly.

"I'm really happy I made the decision to swim," she said. "I wouldn't be where I am today if I'd done ballet."

Follow DI women's swimming reporter Tork Mason on Twitter.

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