(L-R) Julia Gaffney and Mikaela Jenkins pose for a photo at the 2019 World Para-Swimming Allianz Championships on Sept. 13, 2019 in London.
U.S. Paralympic Team Trials Dynamic Duos, presented by Samsung is a three-part series of stories highlighting pairs on their journey to U.S. Paralympic Team Trials and the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
It was one of the most dramatic finishes possible in swimming, when Para swimmer Julia Gaffney finally took gold at the 2019 world championships, winning by .02 seconds in the 200-meter individual medley. Moments later, U.S. teammate Mikaela Jenkins edged out her closest competitor by about half a second to capture her first gold in the 100-meter fly.
It was around this time that their friendship was blossoming, making them inseparable and turning them into a “dynamic duo.”
“Me and Mikaela became really close at the 2019 worlds, it was our first worlds both together,” said Gaffney, a native of Mayflower, Arkansas. “And I think one of my favorite moments of that meet was when I swam the 200 IM and I won my first gold medal and then Mikaela had the 100 fly after that and she won her first gold medal, and they were both really cool, close races. It was just a really exciting moment.”
Gaffney had taken six medals in her world championships debut in 2017, though none were gold, and she was eager to get over the hump. Jenkins, an Evansville, Indiana, native who was making her world championship debut in 2019, knew all about this history, and her excitement was palpable, even as she had her own race to get ready for.
“It was very encouraging for me because I knew that she really wanted to win,” Jenkins said. “And I think I asked (teammate) Erin Popovich, ‘Did Julia win, did Julia win?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah she did,’ and then I was like, ‘All right, I’m running to my call room,’ so it was really back-to-back, and it made me excited for my race.”
Their bonding has been continuous since those world championships in London, whether it was in a Florida training camp or in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Gaffney would constantly drive the younger Jenkins to Target and they visited the Garden of the Gods. It’s especially the case when they push each other to strive for more in the pool.