More than 130 swimmers from 22 countries participated in the week-long World Deaf Swimming Championships in San Antonio, Texas, in mid-August. Currently in its fourth year, the international event, which is separate from the Deaf Olympics, is one of a few designed only for swimmers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Rene Massengale, who works with USA Deaf Swimming and is a parent of a competitor, appreciates that there is a special event like this.
“We’re so thrilled to be able to see the athletes come together,” says Massengale. “Just seeing them want to learn each other’s language, want to support each other, is just a life-changing experience for them. Often times they are the only deaf swimmer on their teams back home, so to be on an entire team of deaf athletes who know what’s it’s like, who know the challenges, is very special for them.”
For many of these athletes, it is an honor to be able to compete, and they want people to know events like these do exist.
On July 25, the Special Olympics World Games opening ceremony will take place in Los Angeles. It kicks off the world’s largest sporting and humanitarian event of the year. The games will run until August 2, with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches in attendance.
More than half a million spectators are expected to watch competitions in 32 Olympic-style events. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are honorary co-chairs of the World Games, with Mrs. Obama planning to attend the opening ceremony.
There will be even more people following the Games from home, including my friend — and Special Olympics athlete — Jeremiah, who has autism.
Jeremiah doesn’t allow his autism to hold him back.
Like many young athletes, 15-year-old Reece Whitley has dreams of one day competing in the Olympics. Unlike most kids, though, Reece is this close to making those dreams a reality.
The 6-foot-8 freshman at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia is one of America’s brightest up-and-coming swimming stars. He holds two National Age Group records, has a spot on the USA Junior National Team, and fast enough times in the 100 and 200 breaststroke to have already qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Not bad for someone who struggled in the pool early on.
“I was at a summer camp [at Penn Charter when I was 7], and I failed the deep-water test,” Reece says. “My mom got me [swimming] lessons and it kind of just turned into this.”
Of course, “this” — the skill, the awards, the records — didn’t happen by itself. Reece is passionate about swimming, works hard, and is incredibly committed to being his best.
As a swimmer, it takes a lot to keep me out of the pool, especially on a warm June evening! But getting the chance to interview legendary swimmer Dara Torres is definitely a good excuse to stay out of the water.
Torres is a five-time Olympian and the winner of 12 Olympic medals (including four golds). At age 46, she nearly made the 2012 Olympic swim team but barely missed the qualifying time by 9/100s of a second. Today, she's still swimming and is encouraging kids to swim, too, as a leader of the SwimToday campaign. SwimToday launched in May and promotes swimming at the "funnest" sport.
In June, I spoke with Torres over Skype about what makes swimming so much fun, how she first got pumped about the sport, and why kids should learn to swim. And as a competitive swimmer myself, it was great talking about how stressful it can be not to do as well as you hoped and how to overcome adversity — in the pool and out of it.
When the 2012 Summer Olympics ended, swimmer Michael Phelps left London with four gold and two silver medals, giving him 18 golds and 22 total medals in his career. He also said his swimming days were over.
But Phelps' retirement lasted less than two years. In an interview with the Associated Press, Phelps' coach Bob Bowman said the swimmer would compete at the Arena Grand Prix, taking place April 24-26 in Mesa, Arizona. He's currently entered in three events: the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.
Michael Phelps was crowned the king of the swimming world in 2008 after going eight-for-eight at the Beijing Olympics. These victories not only added to his previous gold medals for an unheard of 14, but made him the only athlete to reach the mark. With Phelps entering the London Olympics this summer we can only assume that the king will come forth to preserve his reign. But will he?More »