Boales Wins Gold at Canadian Age Group National Championships
Congratulations to Raquel Boales who recently competed in the June Canadian Espoir Age Group National Championships, earning 1st place for the figures competition (level 4) and a Gold Medal for her solo routine! The invitation to compete at the Canadian Nationals was not only unique, but a first time event for a United States synchronized swimmer representing Athletes With Disabilities (AWDs). Raquel was born with a brachial plexus birth injury, resulting in Erbs Palsy. She has limited mobility on one side which includes her arm.
Raquel Boales has been involved with synchronized swimming for almost five years and swims with the Santa Clara Aquamaids in Santa Clara, California. Although there is no specific adaptive program for synchronized swimmers with disabilities in the United States, Raquel has had specialized training with the Aquamaids by incorporating her swim therapy routine and adaptive aquatics with synchronized swimming. However, Canada has been the world leader for synchronized swimming programs for athletes with disabilities. They incorporate a specific category in many of their Meets and Competitions across the Nation for those with disabilities. In April, Canadian Erin O’Neil won the Ontario Open synchronized swimming championships for athletes with disabilities.
When the Canadians learned that Raquel Boales has been involved with developing a committee with USA Synchro to push for athletes with disabilities program in the United States and the Paralympics, they not only wanted to meet her, but give her a chance to compete in their Age Group Nationals along with many other of their athletes with disabilities. Canada has been established with providing synchronized swimming to their athletes with various disabilities for the past 20 years and also has included synchronized swimming as a sport in the Canadian Paralympic program. They have also stimulated many other Countries to consider such a program. Mexico has a team of synchronized swimmers with cognitive and intellectual disabilities who travel to other countries. They have even trained with the Walnut Creek Aquanuts at a summer camp in the past. Other Countries have considered it and are currently in the process of considering and developing programs to accommodate synchronized swimmers with disabilities.
Raquel Boales’ mom, Tina says “With the excitement of the summer Olympics in Rio 2016 and the Paralympic events being televised, synchronized swimming should be considered as part of the International Paralympic program for the future”. Tina Boales has been doing research with synchronized swim clubs around the world to stir up interest as well as gain information for momentum in forming a committee with USA Synchro, which they have approved. “Since networking with the Canadians and seeing the process they use, it would be fairly simple to include an athlete with disabilities category at specific Meets and Competitions here in the United States. I have already contacted major countries such as Japan, Spain, Australia, France, China and even Russia. The response has been curious as well as some already talking about it and putting together a plan for the future”.
But for now, having the consideration for inclusion in U.S clubs would be ideal. Raquel Boales says she could not be happier at this time. “I am able to show the World what I can do as a synchronized swimmer with a disability. Because of synchronized swimming, I have been given that chance to feel and be able to do what some of the abled bodied swimmers have accomplished. But my problem is that I can only go so far with my abilities due to my condition and I would love to have a chance to compete as a synchronized swimmer in the Paralympics one day”.
Raquel also says, "Even with competing at our U.S Nationals would be a dream come true. We can even invite the Canadians and other countries, even if it’s just a few of us to show what we can do to set this up for future competitions.”
Tina says, "As with anything new, it would start out small, mainly to show what athletes with disabilities can bring to clubs across the United States. It would definitely be a nice addition to include a new platform within the USA Synchro structure. There are so many athletes out there who once thought this was something they could not do, but can now re-consider. I know we have young athletes with disabilities out there already and even Masters who may have a difficult time progressing to the next level with everyone else. With the future changes to synchronized swimming levels and proficiency tests, it will be a lot harder for athletes with disabilities to advance. With proper training and adaptive aquatics techniques, the United States can also be a leader by including those with disabilities in the competition with each other at various levels”.
And, with Raquel impressing the Canadians, making new friends and being asked to come back and compete, she and others in the United States can be the start of something really great for synchronized swimmers in the future and even with the Paralympic games.
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