Sisters Ready for an Olympic Splash

Olympic-bound sisters Aria and Mackenzie Fischer receive an official send off, including well-wishes from Mayor Steve Dicterow. Photo by Jody Tiongco
Olympic-bound sisters Aria and Mackenzie Fischer receive an official send off, including well-wishes from Mayor Steve Dicterow. Photo by Jody Tiongco

By Lindsey Paige | Special to the Independent

Laguna Beach sisters Aria and Makenzie Fischer, 17 and 19, respectively, achieved a goal they’ve pushed towards half their lives and one that most athletes would never dream of.

Following in the footsteps of their father, Erich Fischer, who competed in 1992 on the U.S. Olympic team in water polo, the sisters will be headed to the 2016 game in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to compete on the USA Women’s Water Polo team.

Teammates, friends, family and members of the community celebrated the girls’ success in a send-off party this past Wednesday, July 13. They took pictures of Aria and Makenzie in front of a banner with the signature Olympic rings outside Laguna’s historic City Hall.

Teammate Danielle Borelli said that she always knew Aria and Makenzie would be successful and go on to “do bigger and better things” because “they were always really good [competitors].”

According to Makenzie, the sisters grew up in and around the water in Laguna Beach and

The sisters with a younger version of themselves.
The sisters with a younger version of themselves.

experimented playing a variety of sports, but knew that water polo was the sport that could lead them to the most success.

The girls have played together on the same team since they began the sport. Their father, Erich, coached the girls all the way up until high school.

The sisters will join a team of 17 to compete against Spain on Aug. 9 in their first game. Makenzie will compete as a defender for the team and Aria will compete as a center.

The sisters have not changed their routine in lieu of prepping for the games. The girls practice Monday through Saturday every week and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, the sisters practice two times a day.

Makenzie said discipline is what really led to their success as water polo players.

Leslie Fischer, Makenzie and Aria’s mother, said that her time to really connect with her daughters was to-and-from practice. “The girls have worked really hard, but they have also had a lot of coaches who have believed in them and given them opportunities to prove themselves,” said Mrs. Fischer, of the girls training.

For the girls’ father, the biggest challenge was deciding whether or not the time commitment and effort to become successful in the sport was “too much too [soon]” for Aria and Makenzie.

“The natural tendency of parents is to protect their kids and there were times where I worried that maybe the experience would backfire,” said Mr. Fischer. “I learned a lot from both my daughters through the past few years. They showed me true courage and the need to take big risks if you want to chase big dreams.”

Both parents will travel to Brazil to watch the team compete.

All but one of the 17-team members are from California. Three returning players and newbie to the team, Maddie Musselman, are also from Orange County. Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson is from Miami, Fla.

At 17, Aria is the team’s youngest member. She said “being so young and being around my older sister and older teammates has been a really a good opportunity in and out of the water for me. In the water, it has really developed my play and out of the water I am surrounded by strong women.”

Makenzie said that she and Aria had always been competitive in the pool, a factor she credits with their success today.

Makenzie, a graduate of Laguna Beach High, deferred enrollment in Stanford University in lieu of competing in the 2016 games. She said she hopes to play for Stanford’s water polo team in fall 2017.

“[Making the Olympics] has always been in the back of my mind since I started this process,”

The LBHS water-polo standouts and their fans.
The LBHS water-polo standouts and their fans.

said Makenzie. “I decided to make the decision [to defer Stanford] when I made the national team because I knew training with the team would be a good experience regardless.”

Her father said both parents recognized their girls’ athletic prowess early on, “but it didn’t even cross our minds until they started making the younger level USA Water Polo teams and playing in international tournaments that the Olympics were a possibility for them.”

Aria and Makenzie also follow in a path carved by another LBHS water polo standout.

Annika Dries won the national water polo championship with Stanford University in 2011 and the gold medal in the 2012 Olympic games. During her time at the games, it was hard not to reminisce on the times in the pool with her friends and teammates in Laguna Beach, Dries said.

She offered Aria and Mackenzie some advice. “Every moment at the Olympics is an opportunity to experience something great whether in the pool or the village or at another Olympic event. Enjoy the moment and trust the process– every second of training has led to this incredible opportunity.”

Mackenzie seems to already recognize that earning a slot on the Olympic team is only the first step of the journey. Naturally, her next goal is to win the gold medal. After that, she is not quite sure. She said she wants to take it one step-at-a-time.

The sisters said they are more than thrilled to be representing Laguna Beach in the games since this is where it all began.

“I love our little bubble,” said Aria.

Indy intern Lindsey Paige is a journalism student at the University of Florida.


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