de Paula twins travel more than 4,000 miles to make a splash at UWF

By Grier Wellborn

Sports Editor

 Mariana de Paula, left, and Ana are one of three sets of siblings on the UWF Swim and Dive teams. Photo courtesy Mariana de Paula.

Mariana de Paula, left, and Ana are one of three sets of siblings on the UWF Swim and Dive teams.
Photo courtesy Mariana de Paula.

Most siblings are accustomed to sharing clothes. But for a few student athletes at the University of West Florida, sharing a uniform also has become routine.

UWF is home to 15 different sports teams, and a few have pairs of siblings who have excelled at a shared sport. These athletes owe their success in sports not only to their parents, but to their siblings who may have had the greatest influence on their achievements in sports.

The women’s swimming and diving team has three sets of siblings. Mariah and Marissa Constantakos are freshmen divers from Tate High School. Julia and Karisa Kostecki are now in their junior year on the swim team from Lithia, Florida. Lastly, juniors Ana Christina and Mariana de Paula are twin sisters who came all the way to Pensacola from Santos, Brazil.

For the de Paula twins, coming to the United States together meant everything for their swimming careers. They began swimming together when they were 11 years old and have not separated since. The sisters attended the Colegio Universitas in Santos where they excelled on the swim team.

After a stellar high school swimming career, they knew they wanted to pursue swimming even further for a university in the United States. The twins knew that if they wanted to reach college coaches in not only another country, but another continent, it would be up to them to contact coaches. They sent more than 100 emails to college coaches that included their times, their strengths, and often a short video.

Their freshman year of college was spent at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. After their first year at UNF, the twins heard about the new swimming program at UWF, a program that would be able to offer them more scholarship money.

They contacted Head Coach Andrew Hancock, but he was only able to offer one spot on the team. But the de Paulas were a package deal and refused to split up. Luckily for them, a second spot opened up on the team and they were able to come to UWF as a pair.

“We have a lot of strength from coming to the United States together,” Ana Christina said. “It is not like I came here by myself, I came with family.”

They explained that while being more than 4,000 miles away from their family is hard, having each other makes it all worthwhile.

While Mariana’s strengths are in freestyle sprints and relays, Ana is best at backstroke and breaststroke distance.

“We get asked a lot about which one is better, stronger – even though we swim completely different events,” Mariana said. “That in itself is a funny aspect, because we have the same body type and went through the same conditions of training our whole lives, and still, race in very different events. But I believe that, as an athlete, you will be successful in whatever you dedicate yourself to.”

While some siblings have their own individualities such as the events they prefer to swim, they also embrace their depiction as a “dynamic duo.”

Next week, read about Jason and Josh Laatch, two brothers from Birmingham, who are both spending their collegiate basketball careers at UWF.