Swimmers use Jimi Flowers Classic as preparation

By Annemarie Blanco | June 06, 2015, 11:16 p.m. (ET)

Tom Miazga, pictured above, was one of hundreds of swimmers to compete in the Jimi Flowers Classic. 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Roaring crowds, intense competition and the aura of love filled the U.S. Olympic Training Center’s Aquatic Center in Colorado Springs today as day one of the Jimi Flowers Classic began. 

With one of its' biggest turnouts to date, the meet featured an array of athletes from both the U.S. Paralympics world championship and Parapan American games rosters swimming alongside one another for the first time. 

For veterans such as Tom Miazga(Cedarburg, Wisconsin), who took first place in today’s 100-meter backstroke (S8), the meet proved to be much-needed preparation for the upcoming Parapan Am Games in Toronto this August. 

“We’re finally all together," said Miazga. "A lot of times with Paralympic meets, they are so few and far between that we get together and we’re all in the same place at the same time.  There are a lot of new swimmers on this team. It’s nice coming here and having this ice breaker to get this team bonding, knowing who’s who and figuring out what’s going to work in Toronto.”

Now in its sixth year, the Jimi Flowers Classic has been a place to remember one of USOC’s finest while also giving swimmers from across the globe a chance to interact and compete against one another. Flowers, a former USOC coach and mentor, passed away in 2009 after sustaining fatal injuries from a hiking accident.

With plenty of U.S. swimmers in attendance, this year’s competition also featured a large turnout of athletes from Brazil and Mexico as they prepare for the upcoming Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year. 

Team USA swimmers were in top shape taking a multitude of first place finishes. Among some of the top performers were U.S. Paralympics resident athlete Martha Ruether (Allegany, New York) winning the 50 freestyle (S13) finishing in 29.90 and Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland), three-time Paralympic medalist, who took the 100 backstroke (S8) coming in at 1:25.73. 

“There’s definitely competition here, some swimmers are in knee skins, some swimmers are still in practice suits, but everyone is giving it their all in this meet and they are still racing as hard as they can so it’s pretty competitive,” said Colleen Young (St. Louis, Missouri), a member of the world championship team. 

While the meet has become a place to prepare future Paralympic swimmers, honoring the memory of the former coach still remains the top priority for the weekend’s agenda. All proceeds of the event go to a scholarship fund for Flowers’ two children. The meet will conclude with a morning session on Sunday at 9 a.m.