Swimmer competes at world championships, his BYU connection highlighted

BYU swimmer Diego Camacho sits in front of a pool in Fukuoka, Japan at the World Aquatics Championships. Camacho had competed at Jr. World Championships before, but this was his first time at the World Championships. (Photo courtesy of Diego Camacho)

BYU Swimmer Diego Camacho competed in the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan in July.

Camacho, a junior graphic design student born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, represented Mexico at the competition. Camacho competed in the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke. According to the 20-year-old swimmer, competing at the world championships felt like he was learning to swim all over again.

Before his heats, Camacho waited his turn in a dark tunnel. He couldn’t hear anything. He saw other swimmers around him, mostly towering above his 5-foot-8-stature.

Officials ushered Camacho and his heat of swimmers toward a door. He worked hard to control his nerves.

“You go out the tunnel, and you can see a stadium full of people just screaming, and it was a big scenario,” Camacho said. “So it was like, a little bit intimidating to be honest. So I got a little bit distracted.”

He shared he felt like an ant, but at his world championships debut Camacho finished 38th in the 50m backstroke and 35th in the 100m backstroke.

Diego Camacho walks into the pool hall and around Japan. Camacho arrived in Japan two weeks before the competition to adjust to jetlag and experience Japan. (Video courtesy of Diego Camacho)

Diego Camacho dances at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships. Camacho said he likes to dance and “we Mexicans like to party a lot.” (Video courtesy of Diego Camacho)

Camacho was proud of how he competed but knows he will take what he learned from his first world championship and do better next time. 

“I know I could have done better, I think, but I basically learned from the experience. Like how how does it feel, and how different it is from any other competition I’ve been to,” Camacho said. 

Listen as Diego Camacho describes his experience competing at the world championships. Although intimidated, Camacho explained he left feeling motivated.

At the championships, Camacho met two swimmers he has admired for a long time, Ryan Murphy, an American backstroker, and Thomas Ceccon, an Italian backstroker. Camacho said it was cool to see them in person and speak with them.

When Camacho learned he would be representing Mexico in Japan, he said he was happy. For a few months, Camacho knew he would be competing at the Central American Games and Pan American Games, but he didn’t know if he would be traveling to Japan to compete at the world championships.

Camacho received a call at home from the Mexican Federation telling him to get ready for Japan. When he called his mom, Camacho remembered she was driving a car, and she screamed and cried at the good news.

“I think my mom was more excited than me,” Camacho said.

Listen as Diego Camacho describes what happened when he found out he was selected to compete at the world championships. Camacho was grateful his mom didn’t crash the car she was driving when he told her the good news.

Since the 2023 world championships, BYU Swim and Dive coach Shari Skabelund shared she has received several inquiries from swimmers letting her know they have seen Camacho’s journey and want that kind of progress for themselves. 

“For Diego, having the opportunity to swim at the World Championships was an incredible experience for him and Mexico. Diego is an ambassador for BYU,” Skabelund said. 

Camacho explained what drew him to BYU was the warmth of the swim team and uplifting environment. Camacho is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

“The first day I came here, they (the swim team) said hi to me, like if they knew me for years. And I just felt this warm sensation with the team, like if I wasn’t a stranger or a new guy,” Camacho said.

According to Skabelund, when Camacho was in Japan, the team posted his races and times and watched him compete, supporting him from Utah. 

“Diego is an amazing student athlete,” Skabelund said. “He thrives in the classroom, comes to practice with a great attitude, works hard and finds a way to get better every day. He makes everyone around him better.”

During Camacho’s first semester at BYU, he kept in touch with childhood friend and fellow swimmer Abraham Barragan. Barragan was looking at colleges, and when BYU offered him a spot on their swim team he jumped at the opportunity to join Camacho in Provo. 

Abraham Barragan, left, and Diego Camacho, right, pose for a photo for the BYU Swim and Dive team. Barragan and Camacho met as kids in Tijuana, Mexico where they both grew up. (Photo courtesy of Abraham Barragan)

“The BYU Swim and Dive Team is the best place that I could have to continue my education and swimming program,” Barragan said. “I am so happy to be here with incredible coaches, staff and teammates. Especially the fact that they made me and Diego feel like home.” 

Barragan, 21-year-old business major, and Camacho have been friends since 2007. They met while both swimming at the same state-level pool in Tijuana. Barragan describes his and Camacho’s friendship as a brotherhood.

“We are brothers. We have so many differences that you could say that there is no way they are friends, but we connect to each other perfectly,” Barragan said. “We grew up traveling Mexico and now the last few years we travel the world.”

Barragan said as kids he and Camacho would get together and play video games, and often their conversations turned toward their swim goals.

“The first things I thought about when he was going to worlds were the moments when as children we dreamed of achieving it. … He did it first, and I am very proud of him,” Barragan said. “It helps me to remain motivated in this sport, because I want to continue representing the country with him and continue to make history.”

Earlier this year, Camacho competed at the Central American Games and won four medals, two of which were gold.

After graduating BYU in 2025, Camacho hopes to continue swimming at a professional level. For now, he looks ahead to college meets throughout the school year and the PanAmerican games this month from Oct. 20 to Nov. 4. 

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