Swimmer, CAA-record holder David Kiss talks life in and out of the pool

Swimmer David Kiss set the CAA meet record in the 200-yard butterfly back in February during the CAA Championships held in George Mason's Aquatic and Fitness Center (photo courtesy of George Mason Athletics).
Swimmer David Kiss set the CAA meet record in the 200-yard butterfly back in February during the CAA Championships held in George Mason's Aquatic and Fitness Center (photo courtesy of George Mason Athletics).

On the final day of the CAA Swimming and Diving Championships, held at George Mason’s Aquatic and Fitness Center from February 22-25, the Patriots’ own David Kiss set the record for the 200-yard butterfly in a CAA competition with a time of 1:46.89.

“Stepping up on top of that podium gave me a feeling that you don’t really get that many times,” he said.

His record-setting performance came in his morning heat, which was a preliminary competition that qualified him for finals later that same day. He swam slightly slower in finals, finishing with a time of 1:47.20.

“For a finals you get a little bit nervous,” said Kiss, a junior International Studies major. “In the morning you’re more relaxed because it’s just to qualify you for finals.”

In addition to the 200-yard butterfly, Kiss also swam the 200-yard individual medley, the 100-yard butterfly and in four different relays, helping the team come in second place only behind champion UNC Wilmington.

Despite his strong showing at the CAA Championships, Kiss was unable to qualify for the NCAA Championships. In fact, Mason had no male representative this year in swimming at NCAAs. However, one female, Ashley Daner, not only qualified for the NCAA Championships, but placed second in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Kiss moved to the United States from Hungary with his mother when he was 13 years old following his parents’ divorce. They moved in with Kiss’s stepfather, who was already living in the States, in Alexandria, Va.

“It was a chance for a better life, brighter future,” Kiss said.

Although his native language is Hungarian, he was able to quickly pick up English upon his arrival to America. He also studied German for eight years while living in Hungary.

Swimming has always played a major role in Kiss’s life, long before his days competing for Mason. At four years old living in Hungary, his father, who was a swimmer in the military, encouraged him to take up the sport, and he hasn’t left the pool since.

“My whole family is pretty much around sports and athletics,” Kiss said, “and my dad wanted my brother and I to get into swimming when we were growing up. From personal experience he just thought it would be good for us.”

And swimming has certainly been good for Kiss, as it has provided him with a scholarship in college. While in high school, he was recruited by UVA, Virginia Tech and Mason. He originally wanted to go to UVA and just saw Mason as his back up, considering it was so close to his home in Alexandria.

However, after his visit to the Fairfax campus, he quickly changed his mind and knew he wanted to be a Patriot.

“I took trips to all three schools,” Kiss said, “and I completely changed my opinion after coming here to Mason. I got to know the team a lot better and what they do, and the head coach Peter Ward gave me a good idea of how the team was doing, and I thought I could be a good help for them.”

Since Kiss’ arrival, the Patriots have placed second in the CAA Championships each year behind UNC Wilmington. The Seahawks are the perennial powerhouse in the CAA for swimming and diving, having won the last 11 Championships.

“We believe every year we’re going to be the team to take them [Wilmington] down, hopefully claim the CAA title,” Kiss said. “We’re getting closer every year. This year we were so close to them, nobody has gotten this close in a long time, it really came down to the very last few events.”

He is hoping for a strong incoming freshman class next year so that the team can finally break through and win the conference for his senior year.

Aside from Mason competition, Kiss hopes to swim in an event down in Charlotte, N.C. in May called Ultraswim, which is a qualifier for the 2012 Olympic trials. Although it would be his dream to swim for the U.S. Olympic Team, he knows he would have a better shot of making the Hungarian squad.

“My chances of swimming for Hungary are bigger because it’s a smaller country and not that many people are swimming, the competition is not as tight as it is here,” he said.

Even if he never qualifies for an Olympic team, Kiss hopes to continue swimming after he graduates next year simply because of his passion for the sport.

“It’s really good to take my mind away from stress and school and whatever else is going on in my life,” he said. “When I swim my mind is completely set on swimming.”

Swimming is not his only passion, however, as he nearly committed to becoming a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force prior to deciding to attend college.

“I used to go to the air show at Andrew’s Air Force Base,” Kiss said, “and seeing the fighter jets fly by, I just thought it was really cool. I even filled out an application my sophomore year of high school for the Air Force but they never got back to me.”

He also considered applying to the Air Force Academy before ultimately committing to swim at Mason.

Although he isn’t sure yet what he wants to do after college, there is still a chance he will become a pilot in the future, but now he sees himself more of a commercial jet flyer than a fighter pilot.

“I don’t see my self just doing one job for the rest of my life, so I’m really open to just about anything that I’d be capable of doing.”

Scattered among Mason swimming’s grueling schedule of nine practices per week, Kiss does of course attend class and is an International Studies student in the New Century College. He has really enjoyed what NCC has to offer, providing more of an open forum and more of a hands-on classroom experience.

“I really like the way we don’t have lectures but have discussion-based classes,” Kiss said. “I can actually learn a lot more from discussions. I can learn from what other students have to say as well as the professors, and hopefully they can learn from me.”

Kiss committed to the NCC program toward the end of his sophomore year and looks forward to the remainder of his Mason career, both in the swimming pool and in the classroom.

For more information on the Mason swim and dive program, click here.

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