Provo woman becomes fastest mermaid in the world at Merlympics

Mermaid Mia Sim celebrates after competing in the Swiss Merlympics in Geneva, Switzerland, in May.

Mermaid Mia Sim celebrates after competing in the Swiss Merlympics in Geneva, Switzerland, in May. (Mia Sim)


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PROVO — A lot of young girls pretend to be a mermaid while swimming in a pool or the ocean, but one Provo woman has made that dream come true and competed in the Merlympics.

Mia Sim, 22, became the fastest mermaid in the world in May when she competed at the Swiss Merlympics in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Merlympics have been around since 2015 and the competition is held every two years. Sim has officially been mermaiding for 10 years, and she said the Merlympics have really boomed in the last five years.

"This is the elite athleticism you can get out of mermaids," Sim said. Many mermaids will do pageants or events, but the Merlympics are "solely designed to prove athleticism."

All athletes must complete five events at the Merlympics:

  • Ecology: The athlete dives down and retrieves as much trash as possible in 90 seconds.
  • Figures: The competitor has to perform three of 10 mermaid figures.
  • Underwater posing: Each person dives down and poses for a picture, and then has to swim away for the next person to take their spot. Sim said she thinks this one is the hardest.
  • Rescue: The mermaid has to do a 25-meter submerged swim and rescue a dummy.
  • Speed: The athletes race along the top of the water for 50 meters.

Of course, all of the events are completed while wearing full mermaid or merman gear — meaning their legs are bound from their hips to their toes in a tail. Some mermaids will wear fancy headdresses or even wigs to complete their mer-look.

Sim placed 15th overall in the adult competition but won the speed event and broke the record for mermaid speed.

"I am the fastest to date. I currently hold the record," she said.

The mermaid speed event is hard because the race requires the athletes to swim with the back of their head breaking the water, Sim said.

"It slows you down a lot, so it's not designed to be super fast," she said. Her time was a little over 38 seconds.

Sim was a cheerleader and gymnast growing up, but after multiple foot surgeries and a spinal injury, she had to leave those sports behind. She started swimming, as it's a low-impact sport that is good for people who are healing.

Mermaid Mia Sim celebrates after competing in the Swiss Merlympics in Geneva, Switzerland in May.
Mermaid Mia Sim celebrates after competing in the Swiss Merlympics in Geneva, Switzerland in May. (Photo: Mia Sim)

"Growing up, I loved mermaids. I loved fantasy. I loved all the artwork behind it and the folklore," Sim said.

She also has a background in costuming and acting, and all of those things intermingled with still wanting to be an athlete. Sim found a maker in Canada who could create her dream tail, "and four years later I'm a mermaid Olympian from Utah," Sim said.

Almost a year ago, Sim learned about the Merlympics and decided to apply, not knowing if it was even real. But she soon got the letter saying she was accepted as an athlete.

"Performing as a mermaid is so fun, but truly having that sense of 'I want to be the best athlete. I want to be someone who can represent that,' was so much more enticing to me," she said.

This year, Sim competed as an individual athlete. But since the games, she has been inducted into Team USA and is hoping other Utah mermaids will want to be a part of it too.

"It's not a skill that's easily learned. You'll see people who think, 'Oh, I could put on a fin and do that.' No, you can't," Sim said. "This type of restriction on your body is very difficult for people to understand."

Sim is proud that she gets to say she has put in a lot of effort to learn more and increase her skills.

"Not everyone is designed to know how to do this, and it's really special to me in general," she said.

While mermaiding may not be as easy as people would expect, Sim emphasized that the mermaid world is open to people of any background. She encourages anyone interested in learning the skills to get involved.

Mermaid Mia Sim competed in the Swiss Merlympics in Geneva, Switzerland in May. As someone who lives in the desert, She uses her mermaid platform to focus on water conservation.
Mermaid Mia Sim competed in the Swiss Merlympics in Geneva, Switzerland in May. As someone who lives in the desert, She uses her mermaid platform to focus on water conservation. (Photo: Fable and Wonder Photography)

As a mermaid in the middle of a desert, Sim is using her mermaid platform as a way to focus on conservation.

"I love water conservation. I think it's really cool and very applicable to us," she said.

The animals, plants and humans that live in Utah need water, which can be tricky when living in a desert. Any disruptions to the water cycle can have major consequences, she said.

"We, as people, have the biggest impact on it, and we should be taking it seriously," she said. "I know it sounds absolutely nuts trying to take on a whale when you're the size of a shrimp, but that's just the way things look."

Sim has been connecting with local organizations focused on conservation efforts, such as water-wise farming practices, cleaning up lakes, research on algal blooms and other issues Utahns face.

Mermaiding can help entice younger generations to get involved in conservation from a young age, Sim said.

"We have to start thinking about the next series of people."

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Cassidy Wixom covers Utah County communities and is the evening breaking news reporter for KSL.com.

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