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Fear turns to passion for swimmer Khalil Fonder

William Byrd grad ready to take on swimming in college

ROANOKE, Va. – Life can be like a swimming pool: you have to dive in and see just how deep it is. That has been the case for 18-year old Khalil Fonder.

"I had a new experience of, like, drowning. So I was terrified of the water but then I got adopted and I didn't know they were a swimming family at all," said Fonder.

Family takes on special meaning in Fonder's life. Kathy and Doug Fonder adopted him at the age of 5. Both are coaches for the Virginia Gators Swim Club and had three children who swam in college. 

"I didn't look at it any different, like, I was a loving little kid and they love me and they showed me so much love that I don't know where else I'd be because I have such love for them," Khalil said. 

"I was getting getting to that age around like 10,11,12 and I kind of made that choice, like, I enjoy swimming a lot and I see the progress that I've made over these years and I'm like, 'Why not?'"

"I think he kind of realized that, you know, that he was getting pretty good at it and when you get good at something you know either decide you want to do real good at it or not, and he decided he wanted to be good at it," said Doug Fonder. Not only is he dad but he's also Khalil's coach and CEO of Virginia Gators.

Michael Phelps of the United States celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The gold medal is the 19th of Phelps career. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Michael Phelps of the United States celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The gold medal is the 19th of Phelps career. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

As the William Byrd graduate exits one pool he prepares to enter another at the next level at Arizona State University, where he'll get to work with the most decorated Olympian in history -- Michael Phelps

"I didn't know that he would be there, like, on-deck coaching like hands-on-deck. Like that's awesome," said Khalil.

Coach Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps and his son Boomer watch the finals of the men's 400 meter individual medley on day two of the Arena Pro Swim Series - Mesa at Skyline Aquatic Center on April 14, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Coach Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps and his son Boomer watch the finals of the men's 400 meter individual medley on day two of the Arena Pro Swim Series - Mesa at Skyline Aquatic Center on April 14, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

"It's like climbing that mountain; he's got to this ridge and he's got to that ridge well. Now can he get to that to that next thing, get closer to the peak," said Doug Fonder. 

While some fear the deep end, Khalil Fonder has found comfort in a place where he conquered his fears, and found life in the depths of the water. 

"Don't be scared to take new challenges and to take new opportunities, because these new opportunities can lead to bigger opportunities. Just keep keep growing on that and, I mean, my opportunity with swimming kept growing on that and it's made me who I am today and the success that I've had," Khalil said. 

Michael Phelps competes in the men's 200 meter butterfly final at the Skyline Aquatic Center on April 15, 2016 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Michael Phelps competes in the men's 200 meter butterfly final at the Skyline Aquatic Center on April 15, 2016 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

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