Olympic postponement, knee injury can’t deter BYU swimmer Josue Dominguez

By Hannah Miner

BYU swimmer Josue Dominguez began representing his home country of the Dominican Republic when he was just 12 years old. He has since competed in several world championships, winning national championships and swimming in many major competitions all over the world. This summer was supposed to be his first time competing at the Olympics, but his plans have changed — again.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will now take place in 2021. Dominguez said he actually appreciates the postponement because it will allow him to properly train for the Olympics rather than worrying about preparing for the Olympics while pools are closed. The postponement of the Olympics has reduced his and many other athletes’ stress surrounding the situation.

Dominguez started swimming when he was four years old. He first made the national team at age 12, and represented his country for the first time at a competition in Venezuela. He has continued to compete as a part of the national team almost every year since then.

Dominguez has qualified for the Olympics twice now. He first qualified in 2014, the same year he graduated high school and set national records in the Dominican Republic. Dominguez said after graduating, he started thinking more about going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He knew he was going on a mission, but he wasn’t sure if he should wait until after the Olympics. He asked his parents for advice but knew it was ultimately his decision to make.

Josue Dominguez, right, a few years before making the national team for the first time. (Josue Dominguez)

“It was actually my nutritionist that told me, ‘If you go on a mission, you better go as soon as you can, so you can have more time after you come back to get in shape and go to the next Olympic Games,'” Dominguez said. “I was like, ‘That makes a lot of sense, it feels right, I’m going to do it.'”

The week after qualifying for the Olympics, he sent in his mission papers.

“For me, it wasn’t a hard decision to make,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez first came in contact with BYU at one of his last meets before his mission, the same meet where he swam his Olympic-qualifying time. He met a student from BYU at the meet who was able to put him in contact with the swim coaches at BYU. He planned to attend BYU and be a part of the swim team after returning from his mission.

One of the things Dominguez needed to do before coming to BYU was learn English. He had learned enough English in school to have a short conversation, but his siblings convinced him to enroll in a BYU Pathways course before leaving on his mission. He said in addition to the course, he was also able to learn a lot of English on his mission in Mexico since he had so many American companions.

Things were going smoothly for Dominguez in Mexico until he tore his ACL while serving. He had to return home to get surgery. His physical therapist was supportive of his desire to get back into the mission field, and Dominguez worked hard in therapy and recovered quickly. Following his recovery process, which lasted a few months, Dominguez returned to Mexico and finished his mission.

Getting back into the swing of things did not come easy for Dominguez upon completing his mission. The breaststroker struggled with mobility issues in the pool due to his knee surgery, as well as getting back in shape quickly.

Josue Dominguez, left, at age 15. (Josue Dominguez)

“I was facing a lot of frustration because I was trying to be as fast as I was before my mission,” Dominguez said. “I was like, ‘I need to lose weight, I need to get everything right so I can swim as well as I was before.’ But it took a long time.”

Those around Dominguez were encouraging as he faced such frustrations. It took him about eight months to get back in shape and start swimming close to the same pace he had before his mission. Making the national team again was especially reassuring for him.

Eleven months after completing his mission, Dominguez started school at BYU and began swimming with the team. He now has career-bests of 52.69 in the 100m breaststroke and 1:55.97 in the 200m breaststroke. He holds school records for the fastest time in both events after swimming for just two years with the Cougars. The 200m breaststroke record was BYU’s longest-standing record when Dominguez broke it in November of 2019.

“He’s passionate about everything he does,” BYU swimming and diving assistant coach Shari Skabelund said. “He’s got a champion’s heart. Everything he does, he does his whole heart and soul. He’s all in; you don’t have to motivate him.”

Dominguez has a goal to work hard in practice as well as to have fun. He said he wants to enjoy his time in the water because, to him, having fun is one of the most important parts of swimming.

Josue Dominguez set school records in the 100m and 200m breaststroke during his sophomore season with the BYU swimming & diving team. (BYU Photo)

Dominguez’s teammates and coaches describe him as a “gentle giant” who doesn’t ask for attention. He focuses on working hard and lets the results speak for themselves.

“He’s just the nicest guy you’ll ever meet,” BYU swimming and diving head coach John Brooks said. “He’s polite and courteous, respectful, and he’s a good student. He’s a good example of BYU, he’s a good example of our program and he’s a good example for the Church.”

Dominguez’s original hope was to make it to the semifinals in his first Olympics. He knows it will be difficult, but also believes that he can do it. With the postponement of the Olympics, however, Dominguez wants to do even better than he originally hoped. He said the extra year to train will be helpful in achieving his goals.

His ultimate dream is to make it to the finals at the Olympics. For now, however, he is taking things step by step and focusing on performing his best at his first Olympics in 2021. Dominguez hopes the Tokyo Olympics won’t be his last, and that he will have more opportunities in the future to make it to the finals.

“For me, being in the water is everything,” Dominguez said. “It’s been part of my life for a long time now, and I can’t be without it.”

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