The Paralympic Games not a dream but a reality.

Ileana RodriguezTalking about trials is difficult even when you have herd the good news, “you have made the 2012 Paralympic Team”.  I decided to share the scariest time of trials and more important, how I got there. 

Swimming was hard but I have been training for this moment and I decided that it was the time to show off all of my hard work and no matter the outcome I was determined to have fun in the pool. I swam five events with personal best times in all of them. Swimming was great and I certainly enjoyed it. The hard part started on Sunday morning, when the team was going to be named. 

For quite some time I have wondered how would I feel if I could make the 2012 Paralympic Team. How hard would it be to make the team? How does the team get named in the infamous room that I have heard so many stories about? I imagined it would be a cold, very formal environment, that would slowly start to transform into a more relax and happy atmosphere as the list of qualified athletes was called .  I thought that very few people would show up to this rodeo avoiding to hear some bad news. 

I was wrong; the room was full of people. Parents, coaches and athletes could not find a place to sit. The steps and floor space in the auditorium served as seating areas due to large amount of people. Athletes were interacting amongst each other, but definitely a lot of anticipation was felt.  The meeting did not have many rituals but definitely was very organized. They appointed the coaches for the trip, and then proceeded to name the girls team, followed by the boys. They were calling the team in alphabetical order, and I’m not going to lie, I wished for a second to change the first letter of my last name, as it felt I had never waited so long for Rodriguez to be called.  

Ileana RodriguezIt was a mix of feelings, and everything I had expected to feel and think in that moment didn’t happen.  I was right about only one thing, I was extremely happy and relieved.  After the entire team was named, a huge chaos of wheelchairs and hugs started among parents, athletes and all of the people in the auditorium. I found the two must important people during this entire journey, my parents, they were particularly happy and what a great way to celebrate fathers day with my dad. 

The good news was hard to believe. During my return to Colorado I was thinking about how I ended there, in that room, named as part of the 2012 US Paralympic Team. I realized that it was not the weekend of fast swimming. It was the long journey and all the ups and downs I came across during this years.  As I arrived in Colorado Springs everyone was very proud and happy that 9 of the 11 athletes in the U.S. Resident Team had made the 2012 Paralympic Team. The employees in the dining hall, mama Sherry, the front desk staff, my co-workers at FMD all new that we had made the team, they are the people that support us daily. They don’t know about our sport or day-to-day routines of training but they undoubtedly know how to make us smile after a long, hard workout. Ileana Rodriguez

Colorado is home for me today, but Miami, “es mi casa”. I received all the support from Miami during these two years. My sister Ana Maria, my brother Eloy Javier and my cousin Ana have been essential in this journey. They have have accompanied me to some of my swim meets from which I have great memories and also bad ones, like my first American Record or my first disqualification. All of this important people will be watching me swim in London, together with some friends so I must go to the water now, and keep on training hard!!