Emilio Perez fell in love with the water when he was just five years old. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, he learned to swim at the Konkel Park swimming pool.

“It wasn’t something that I planned, but it was something that I knew I always wanted to do,” he said of the sport that would eventually become a career.

He began swimming on a team at Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center in Brown Deer. In high school, he swam on the Greenfield High School team. There he broke several state records, including for the 50 Freestyle in 2021.

“I still get goosebumps,” Perez shared of his early accomplishments.

But, he said he can’t point to one moment when he knew the sport he loved could be something more.

After one year in college, Perez decided it was time to try out professional swimming. Perez’s parents are from Mexico and he obtained his dual-citizenship. About two years ago, he began swimming professionally for the country of his heritage.

Just last week, he was at an international meet in Japan representing Mexico.

“International swimming as a whole is very difficult, but at the same time, it’s something I would never trade. I’m so grateful that I’m able to travel and do the sport that I love and just be around a great team,” Perez shared.

He shared that going pro in the sport isn’t necessarily lucrative. But it’s his passion that drives him, and it’s something he wants to share with others in his hometown.