U.S. Paralympics Swimming resident athletes set sights on Rio

Oct. 16, 2013, 9 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., welcomed five new Paralympic swimmers to its campus this fall as part of the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Resident Program. The five new athletes join Susan Beth Scott (Cape Girardeau, Mo.), a 2008 and 2012 Paralympic medalist who has lived and trained at the OTC since 2006.

Susan Beth Scott
Two-time Paralympian 
Susan Beth Scott is a member of the U.S. 
Paralympics Swimming Resident Program.

The resident program is currently made up of four men and two women of varying disability classifications, but two additional athletes will likely be added by the spring of 2014. The athletes are Scott, Blake Adams, Tharon Drake, Ryan Duemler, Lindsay Grogan and Tyler Sharp.

The residents will call the OTC home for the next two years in preparation for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The group includes members of the U.S. Paralympics National A Team, National B Team and Emerging Team, as well as a few athletes chosen at head coach Dave Denniston’s discretion.

Denniston has an impressive pedigree in both able-bodied and Paralympic swimming. As an able-bodied swimmer, Denniston became an NCAA Champion and represented Team USA at the 2003 world championships, nearly making the Athens 2004 Olympic Team. In 2005, he was paralyzed in a sledding accident and joined the Paralympic Movement shortly thereafter. He represented the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games as an athlete, and at the London 2012 Games as a coach for the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team.

“Being on the able-bodied side, I’ve seen the top level of the sport and where we can go as Paralympic athletes,” Denniston said. “And I don’t think we’re there yet … We can all do a lot better at becoming the best in the world, and I’ve seen that, so I try to use it to coach [my athletes] at that level.”

Each athlete training with the program met time standards to qualify for residency and was deemed capable of medaling at the Paralympic Games.

For Sharp, an 18-year-old native of Olympia, Wash., the idea of representing the United States in Rio is relatively new. Sharp competed in his first international meet at the 2012 Speedo Can Am, and his results there showed his potential to swim at an elite level.   

“After I did okay at that first international meet, it kind of opened my eyes to all of this,” Sharp said. “This actually was a goal of mine that I aimed for, so I trained harder for it – and now my goal is to go farther.”

No athlete is guaranteed a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games or even continued residency at the OTC. Swimmers must re-qualify each year according to the national or emerging team’s time standards and must qualify at the Paralympic Trials to earn a spot on the Rio team.

The roster for the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Resident Program includes two athletes with visual impairments, 20-year-olds Adams and Drake. Adams, a native of Lakeville, Minn., is a member of the 2013 emerging team, while Drake, of Hobbs, N.M., is a member of the 2013 national B team. Drake also represented the United States at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships in Montreal, Quebec, in August.

Duemler, 20, of Chesterfield, Mo., is also on the 2013 national B team roster. Duemler, who has cerebral palsy, represented the U.S. at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships and was also a member of the 2012 national team.

Sharp is a left-arm amputee who specializes in the 100-meter breaststroke and butterfly events. 

On the women’s side, 25-year-old Grogan is a left-leg amputee and a member of the 2013 emerging team. Grogan is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia master’s program in kinesiology and a native of Macon, Ga. There, Grogan competed with the Georgia Blazers, a state team for youth with physical disabilities, alongside two-time 2012 Paralympic swimming gold medalist Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder.

Duemler and Drake both arrived at the OTC campus in January, while the rest of the newcomers arrived in late summer/early fall.

Scott, the program’s longtime resident and two-time Paralympian, has spina bifida. She earned a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle at the 2008 Paralympic Games as well as a bronze and silver in relay events at the 2012 Games. She was nominated for an ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability in 2008, and she was named to the 2013 U.S. Paralympics National A Team in January.

While their sights are ultimately set on the 2016 Paralympic Games, the resident program swimmers will compete in many meets, both domestic and international, throughout their residency. The team is set to compete in its last national meet of 2013, the Can-Am Open in Canada, in December. Next up will be the Can Am in Miami, the results of which will determine the roster for the team competing at the Pan Pacific Championships in August 2014.