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Hansel began his aquatic life at George Washington High School in Washington Heights, NY, where he began swimming relatively late, in a P.E. class his sophomore year. He did not take naturally to the water and found the going difficult. At the end of the semester he was ready to quit, but it was the encouragement of his instructor that pushed him out of his comfort zone and convinced him to remain in the water. The following year, Hansel was bit by the swimmer's bug and advanced quickly from the P.E. class to his high school's swim team, surprising himself with his rapid progress. Soon he was earning his Lifeguard and teaching certifications, working with the NYC Parks and Recreation as well as at private pools. His brother, Miguel, is a longtime Imaginaire and recommended him to join the Imagine family.