Ross Minor competes at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 25, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Ross Minor is an open book.
The Para swimmer hosts a YouTube channel and maintains all the usual social media accounts where he invites questions from anyone with something to ask in segments called “Blind Guy Answers Viewer Questions.”
He’s hoping that somewhere down the road he can parlay his willingness to share details of his life into speaking engagements and expand his reach in inspiring others with his story. For now, however, he’s still adding more chapters to that inspirational aspect as he trains for the upcoming Para swimming season and, ultimately, the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer.
“This is basically the very first long-term goal that I’ve set for myself, and so getting to the top of that mountain would be great,” Minor said of making the Paralympic team. “I mean, you have school, which is great, everyone does that, but this feels unique and personal. I almost have to be different from everyone else in order to push myself more, and the Paralympics does that for me so if and when I make it to Tokyo and then Paris (in 2024), that’s just a great goal to have. It’s taught me and will continue to teach me discipline, patience and a good work ethic. I’ve learned all that along the way.”
Minor’s road to where he’s at now, living and training full-time at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is both unusual and tragic. When he was just 8 years old and living in Charlotte, North Carolina, his parents were divorcing and one night while he was asleep Minor’s father came into his room, shot him in the head and then shot his 10-year-old brother before turning the gun on himself. Both his brother and his father died. Minor was left completely blind and without a sense of smell.
It was as much physical, mental and emotional trauma as one person could endure, let alone a child, but Minor said being a kid probably helped after he woke up in the hospital and learned that he was blind.
“It was kind of like, ‘Oh, this just happened,’” he said. “I don’t think I even had the ability to think on that level. I had no idea at the time that it would impact me so much. Ignorance is bliss.”
He and his mother got by with a lot of support from the community, he said, from fundraisers to help pay his medical bills to donations to help with his education. It was while he was in middle school that he first started to swim.
Throughout middle school and high school, learning what adaptations he needed to allow him to compete was a process of trial and error. He was on the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind swim team in high school, he said, but he was the only blind swimmer and even the coaches there didn’t have much experience coaching kids who couldn’t see.
Minor wanted to continue swimming after high school, but the University of North Florida only had a women’s swim team. He asked if he could practice with them, but the answer was no. In order to see if he had what it took to continue in Para swimming, he hired a coach for the first time who had a background working with visually impaired swimmers.
inor soon made the times he needed and applied for a residency in Colorado Springs because he knew it was the only way he’d ever be able to afford the training he really needed. A week later he heard back that he’d been accepted and shortly after he’d dropped his spring semester classes, packed up and headed west.
Every blind swimmer does things a little differently, he said, but over the course of his training in Colorado Springs he’s found things that work for him. For instance, if he dives off the block crooked, his coaches find certain ways he has to position his body in order to hit the water straight. He brushes the lane line with his pinky to keep himself on course, and has someone tap him when he’s two strokes out from reaching the wall so he can get in a breath before he flips.
Minor had good results last year, both at the World Para Swimming World Series event in Indianapolis, where he won both the 400-meter freestyle and 50-meter freestyle, and at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 where he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.
This year hasn’t started off great; Minor hit his head and suffered a concussion on the way to a meet in January, and then developed a virus. He skipped the World Para Swimming World Series in Australia because he hasn’t been in the water enough.
He hopes to be in form for Indianapolis again this year, he said, and will work toward making the Paralympic team in the 400-meter freestyle.
“I’m putting all my eggs in that basket,” he said. “I need to cut off significant time to make it because right now I probably wouldn’t make it with my current times. I want to bump off at least 10 seconds by the trials because that would give me the most chance to make it. Those are my main goals. The pressure’s on.”
In the meantime, he’ll continue to share his progress on social media and entertain questions, whether they’re about his swimming, what happened as a child or how he does things like use his phone and play video games when he can’t see.
“You can derive meaning and inspiration from a lot of different things, and I just feel like If I was able to push through what I’ve been through maybe more people could have some encouragement or motivation like I did from the family and friends around me,” he said. “That’s why I share my story, and it’s to promote disability awareness on all fronts. It’s all about educating people and they can do what they want with the info and apply it to their lives.”