Swimmer Found Two Close-Knit Communities at Washington

04/06/2023

Pamela Vasquez ’03, Swimming, Hall of Fame 2015 Inductee

Pamela Vasquez

Swimmer Pamela Vasquez ’03 accomplished great things at Washington College. She won championships, set records and earned titles, including Centennial Conference most outstanding performer, All-American and, most notably: Olympian.  

An international student, Vasquez swam 200 Freestyle for her home country, Honduras, at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Knowing her country’s swim team would include just one woman and one man, Vasquez trained throughout her freshman year in hopes of being that one woman.  

“My college coach couldn’t be involved, but I could use the pool and my home coaches sent instructions.”  

She made the team, trained at home all summer, and headed to Sydney in late August. Missing the first few weeks of classes posed no problem at the College.  

“She was a fantastic student, and it was monumental,” says Kim Lessard, who was then women’s swimming coach and is now Washington’s assistant athletic director. “Having an Olympian at the College was thrilling.”  

As Washington’s first Olympic athlete, Vasquez was celebrated by her teammates and all over campus. 

“It was a truly awesome experience,” Vasquez says. “Being in the Village with people from all over the world… It was the first Olympics for Michael Phelps and [Australian] Ian Thorpe. Being in the same pool with them was amazing.  

“Swimming for your country, you feel so proud,” she continues. “Plus, I knew everyone at Washington was excited for me.”  

Vasquez found a love of swimming in a river near her parents’ farm when she was about 6 years old. Formal training began soon thereafter, and immediately she began beating other swimmers. By age nine, she competed all over Central America, and as a young teenager, she raced against swimmers from Mexico, South America and the Caribbean.  

“Swimming gave responsibility and balance,” Vasquez says. “The more I swam, the harder I worked in school.”  

Considering Washington College, she wrote to Lessard, sending swim times and SAT scores.  

“We spoke on the phone many times,” Lessard recalls. “I recorded a video of Chestertown and campus and mailed it … we really wanted her.”  

Today, Vasquez, who was inducted in Washington’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015, recalls her years at Washington fondly. 

“As an athlete and an international student, I was part of two close communities.” She worked in the College’s international office, lifeguarded and taught swimming to local children. After graduation, she returned to Honduras, building a career in trade management and recently starting a family. She retired from swimming shortly after college. “I felt I’d done enough,” she says.  

“Kim really took a chance on me,” says Vasquez. The chance paid off. Swimming distances from 200 to 1,650 yards, she collected 20 Centennial Conference medals over four years, nine of them gold. Her teams went 45-4 during her tenure, and the 2001-02 team went 12-0.  

“She was a real racer. She loved competition,” says Lessard. “I was always able to count on Pamela to give us 100% all of the time.”