Living a charmed life
Silver medalist Becca Meyers, gold medalist Valerie Grand Maison of Canada and bronze medalist Kelley Becherer of the United States pose on the podium with medals from the women's 200-meter individual medley (SM13) at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
BALTIMORE – Becca Meyers truly can say that she has been making up for lost time.
After missing her entire high school swimming season with a concussion, the two-time Paralympic medalist has had a busy couple of months which included prom, committing to college and making the U.S. team for the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships.
And, oh yeah, she met Prince Harry.
"Oh my God, meeting Prince Harry was so fun," Meyers said. "It was way better than prom."
Make no mistake. Prince Harry was not her prom date. But the two met earlier this month when he visited the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. Meyers was one of about 300 people invited to the event, and was joined by Paralympic gold medalist Ian Silverman who also trains at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, and another Paralympic champion swimmer, U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder. Also in attendance were several Congress members, including U.S. Senator John McCain, with whom Meyers got a photograph.
Lisa Meyers with Arizona Senator John McCain and Becca Meyers, a medalist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games
Meyers made the Washington visit with her father, Mark, and sister, Lisa. Her mother, Maria, hurt her leg playing tennis and could not go.
“So I sent two daughters to meet a prince,” Maria Meyers said with a laugh.
Alas, neither one of the Meyers daughters came home with Prince Harry at their side, but both women returned to Baltimore with charming futures. Lisa Meyers just graduated from Stevenson University and landed a job with T. Rowe Price. Becca, who will graduate May 29 from Notre Dame Preparatory School, has her sights set on the world championships, beginning her college career at Loyola University Maryland and, hopefully, competing in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games.
Becca committed to Loyola in February and will swim for coach Brian Loeffler, who guided Phil Scholz to the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and Snyder and Joe Wise to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
A Maryland native, Meyers has been swimming since she was 6, and she won her very first race. Last summer, at the age of 17, she garnered two medals in the Paralympic Games in London. She took a silver medal in the 200-meter individual medley and added a bronze in the 100 free, both in the S13 class.
Born with Usher Syndrome, which causes hearing loss and progressive vision loss, Meyers received a cochlear implant at 2. Although she continues to have difficulties hearing and with her balance, overall Meyers, who competes in the S13 classification for visually impaired swimmers, has not let her disabilities hold her back.
"Becca was born with a spirit and she has led us places we never dreamed we would go," her mother, Maria, said. "Becca never really knew she had any disabilities because she was always out there doing what all kids her age were doing."
It also helps Meyers that she lives and trains in Baltimore, which has become a mecca for Paralympic swimmers. Meyers, Jessica Long, Silverman and Snyder — all of whom have Baltimore ties — combined to win 14 medals in London.
Meyers has known Long, one of the most decorated Paralympians, since they were about 8, and she referred to Joe Wise as “one of my besties.” And she trains with the same coach (Erik Posegay) as Ian Silverman. Even before she ever sat in a lecture at Loyola University Maryland, she and Snyder spoke to students on campus about their Paralympic experiences.
She is also fortunate that as she forges ahead with her collegiate life she will not have to leave her longtime doctors.
“I’m really, really excited about coming (to Loyola) next year since everything is at a convenience with my ear and eyes doctors right down the road at Johns Hopkins Hospital and being so close to home,” Meyers said.
Before she starts college, Meyers will have a busy summer. She lost a lot of ground back in December when another swimmer crashed into her head on during a practice. Meyers suffered a concussion, the first major injury of her career. She missed all of her school’s meets, but somehow managed to compete in the National Catholic swimming championships.
After missing close to two months of swimming, she got the flu and then her grandfather died.
Although she was not in the best training condition, she competed in April at the U.S. Paralympics Spring Swimming Nationals (CanAm Championships) in Minneapolis. She did not have the strength to compete in the distance events (800, 1,500) and in her last event, the 400, she made the qualifying time for worlds by .03 of a second.
Even retelling the drama now — one month later — you can sense her relief.
“I looked up (at the scoreboard),” Meyers said, “and I said, ‘OK, I made it. I’m good.’ ”
She plans to compete in a couple of club meets and will be in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the 2013 Jimi Flowers Classic June 22-23. The big event, of course, is the world championships Aug. 12-18 in Montreal. She likely will race every day at that meet, with plans to race the 50, 100 and 400 free, the 100 fly and the 200 IM.
“I’m getting back up to speed,” she said. “I’m in a much better place now.”
Marc Lukianczuk is a student at Loyola University Maryland. Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for USParalympics.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.