Robert Griswold celebrates winning gold in the men's 100-meter butterfly S8 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 3, 2021 in Tokyo.
Robert Griswold remembers the first time he competed at the Jimi Flowers Classic as a 17-year-old teenager in 2014.
Griswold shared a room with three-time Paralympic swimmer Michael DeMarco while staying in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the long-course meet held annually at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.
Griswold, who had competed in his first Para swimming meet only five years earlier in Cincinnati, is nearly 30 years younger than DeMarco. Despite their age difference, or perhaps because of it, the two roommates hit it off.
“He was like this 45-year-old guy, and he taught me so much, whether it was at the camp (or) even just being there and having the opportunity to rub shoulders with him and ask him questions,” Griswold said. “That’s really what made it fun. I think that’s important.”
Griswold returned to the Jimi Flowers Classic earlier this month, except his role had changed over the past eight years. He was now the decorated Paralympian, a two-time gold medalist offering advice to a new generation of swimmers as he stood on the pool deck.
The Jimi Flowers Classic on July 16-17 was as much an opportunity for Paralympic medalists like Griswold, Julia Gaffney and Colleen Young to mentor kids new to the sport as it was for them to race at their home pool.
Griswold said he met a 9-year-old swimmer from Colorado Springs on the first day of the meet. The boy said he was leaving immediately afterward to compete at the Move United Junior Nationals in nearby Denver.
Griswold said he decided to make the hour-long drive to Denver to watch the boy swim there. He offered the boy advice and encouraged other kids that they could “do something really special” in Para swimming if they worked hard and were willing to make sacrifices to improve in the pool.