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Long Beach Middle School Student Pursues Olympic Swimming Dreams

Published: 5/16/2018

In a temporary 50-meter swimming pool just steps away from the site of the recently-demolished Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool, 13-year-old Erik Fourzon is training to become part of Long Beach's illustrious aquatic history, and to bring his family history full circle as well. 

Erik's mother's family, the Cheas, fled Cambodia's Pol Pot regime in the late '70s. Erik, who began swimming just three years ago, is currently No. 1 in the U.S. in the 50, 100 and 200-meter breaststroke and is already just fractions of a second off Cambodia's national breaststroke records. There's a strong possibility he may be competing for Cambodia in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. 

"The Long Beach Cambodian community is behind him," says Erik's coach, Dr. Teresa Pascuzzo.  "They're supporting him all the way to Tokyo."  

Long Beach is an aquatics town, hosting some 12 aquatic clubs, and the home and training ground for water polo and swimming world champions such as Tim Shaw and Susie Atwood. Fourzon trains with the Long Beach Swim Club (LBSC), which Pascuzzo has coached for the last 18 years.  

Pascuzzo, a five-time All-American at the University of Southern California, employs state-of-the-art training techniques with an emphasis on quality yardage in the pool. Erik, a level-headed seventh-grader at Rogers Middle School, is quickly reaping the benefits of Pascuzzo's innovative and passionate coaching. He often shares a lane with world-class swimmers and water polo players, and was fortunate this spring to train with Russian Olympic breaststroker Yulia Efimova.  

Coach Pascuzzo spent many hours training at the old Belmont Pool, which undoubtedly shaped her coaching philosophy.  

"That place just reverberated with joy and happiness, excitement and intensity," she says.  

Pascuzzo has carried those qualities, along with a bold and progressive approach, into her coaching. "I expect excellence," she says. "I expect my swimmers to think outside the box." 

Erik's attitude reflects this philosophy. "Competitive swimming is a lifestyle," he says. "Once you're at this level, it's all about the time and dedication that goes into it."  

Erik's parents, Dale and Nitty, have brought their own contributions to Erik's love of swimming and his perseverance in the pool.  Dale Fourzon, who grew up in San Diego, is a self-described waterman.  His wife Nitty's family fled Cambodia and spent some rough months in a Thai refugee camp before emigrating to the United States with the assistance of a church group in Minnesota.  When they arrived here, they had nothing but the clothes on their backs and a pan for cooking rice.  

Nitty's Aunt came out to Long Beach to visit some relatives, fell in love with the weather and decided to move west. The family made its home in Long Beach, where the Cambodian community is the second-largest in the world. Today, the Fourzon’s are well established in Long Beach owning their own business.

Dale and Nitty gave Erik opportunities to connect with other children growing up, enrolling him for a season of youth soccer and getting him involved with the Boy Scouts. But it was an invitation for a tryout with Long Beach Shore Aquatics that changed the course of Erik's childhood; his remarkable ease and speed in the pool got him signed up instantly.  

Soon, Erik was turning heads, clipping seconds at a time off his personal bests and establishing himself as one of the world's best young swimmers. On March 15 of this year, Erik placed first in five events at the 14 and Under Junior Olympic Championships.  

Erik has dual citizenship in the USA and Cambodia and may soon be competing internationally for Cambodia. To compete for Cambodia at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Erik would have to first swim under the Cambodian flag in an international event as the Southeast Asian Games. And though the pursuit of international Olympic goal is on his mind, Erik would "100% like to compete for the USA,” if he gets fast enough.

Erik is remarkably calm about the prospect of becoming an international swimming star so young. Although he is already signing autographs and is being looked up to by younger swimmers, he remains humble. "I do not assume the mentor role. I look up to my friends who are a lot faster than I am and who have been at it much longer."  

"I have my own goals," says Erik. "I'm not going to try and meet the expectations of others."  

The City is currently investing in the Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center Project. As part of this project, the former pool will be replaced with a new state-of-the-art aquatic facility that will include indoor and outdoor pools for recreation, teaching, competition and therapy. Funding for this project is being provided primarily from the City’s Tidelands Fund. To learn more, visit http://belmontpool.com/

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