Q&A With Cortney Jordan

By Brianna Tammaro | June 22, 2016, 5 p.m. (ET)
Cortney Jordan, pictured here after winning gold in the women's S7 400-meter freestyle at the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships, will compete to make her third Paralympic Games at the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials - Swimming and Track & Field from June 30-July 2 in Charlotte.

The 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials – Swimming and Track & Field are right around the corner and in preparation of the competition, we will be serving up a series of Q&A’s with some of the athletes to watch in Charlotte June 30-July 2. Though Cortney Jordan, an eight-time Paralympic medalist, makes it look easy, her demanding schedule says otherwise. Catch up with Cortney as she discusses getting her Master’s degree, her focus heading into trials and how band Blink-182 accompanies her for every race.

Brianna Tammaro: What are you most excited about for the Paralympic Trials in Charlotte?

Cortney Jordan: I am excited for the opportunity to race at Trials! I finished my Master's program a month ago and it has been fantastic to train without any other responsibilities. Also, I am thrilled to be able to see other members of Team USA. They are my best friends, so even at a stressful event, it will be wonderful to reconnect.

BT: You swam at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center for the Arena Pro Swim Series in May. How do you think that prepared you to swim in the same competition pool for Trials?

CJ: Attending the Arena Pro Swim Series Meet in May was incredible! It was a great racing environment and I was able to swim twice in one day. It allowed me to familiarize myself with the pool, practice using the blocks, and become comfortable racing there.

BT: What have you been focusing on heading into Trials?

CJ: For trials, I am focusing on having strong swims. I have been in the gym frequently to improve my explosiveness and endurance. I'm excited to see how it will impact my performances. I have six events to train for, so I train a variety of practices to prepare for each event.

BT: What event are you most excited to compete in?

CJ: That's a tough one! I think it’s a tie between the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. I have always loved the 50 free; it's short and it was my gold medal race in Beijing! I am also excited about the 100 back. I had the opportunity to race the 50 backstroke during the Arena Pro Series and my time was only a tenth off of my best time.

BT: Do you have any pre-race rituals?

CJ: Before each race, I visualize how I want the race to go and practice positive thinking. This helps build my confidence and I feel more prepared for the event. When I am in the ready room, I listen to Blink-182. They are my all-time favorite band. I have listened to them in the ready room since the beginning of my Paralympic career.

BT: You just graduated with your Master’s degree in elementary education at Loyola University in Maryland (Congratulations!). How did you balance school, work and competitive swimming?

CJ: I really don't know! That was probably the most difficult time in my life. I think I was able to succeed and balance school, work, and swim because I loved it. I cannot express how happy I am in a classroom. I would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to train and be completely exhausted when I arrived at school for student teaching. I'd walk into the room and my kids would be so thrilled to see me and would suddenly forget about my exhaustion (until I got home that night).

I had to be organized and mentally tough to do it all, but I think most of my success is due to my family and friends. My family is supportive and helped in any way possible. Jessica Long, my roommate, was understanding and motivating on my toughest days. My coach and teammates—Brian [Loeffler], Mckenzie [Coan], Alyssa [Gialamas], Brad [Snyder], and Lizzi [Smith] made training better and encouraged me in and out of the water. My mentor teachers and colleagues in the program also assisted me with difficult assignments and problems I encountered during the process. I made it through with their support!

BT: Eight years after making your first U.S. Paralympic Team in 2008, you’re striving to make your third Games in Rio. How has the sport grown since Beijing?

CJ: The Paralympic Movement has grown exponentially since I began in 2008, which has been so exciting to witness. The Paralympic Games in Rio will receive 66 hours of coverage this year, which is a remarkable improvement from previous years. I think that it will only continue to grow once more people see how incredible and competitive the Games are!

BT: If you could see another Paralympic sport contested in Rio, which would you want to watch?

CJ: I would love to watch track & field because I want to see Lex Gillette compete. He is a wonderful friend and fellow member of Team 24 [Hour Fitness]. Also, I have a fellow Cal Lutheran student, Cody Jones, vying for a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team so it would be great to watch them in real life instead of watching them online! Goalball and wheelchair basketball also amaze me, so I'd love to watch some of those games, as well.

BT: What’s your favorite Paralympic memory?

CJ: Overall, winning gold for my country and watching as our U.S. flag was raised to the national anthem was the best feeling and my favorite Paralympic memory. The support I have received from my teammates after winning gold [50m freestyle] at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing was astounding. Jessica Long and Susan Beth Scott actually ran out of the ready room to give me a hug. Also, it was wonderful to win gold on the same day as Kelley Becherer. We were roommates and were able to celebrate together. The love and support from my teammates made it even better. I hope to create more memories with Team USA in Rio!

BT:   If you could only visit one tourist attraction in Rio, which would you choose?

CJ: I would visit the Christ the Redeemer statue. I have been to Brazil multiple times, but I never had the chance to see it. It would be a beautiful and memorable experience.

The U.S. Paralympic Team Trials – Swimming and Track & Field will be held June 30 – July 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and are hosted by Partners for Parks. Thanks to support from The Coca-Cola Company and BP, the multi-sport Trials will host more than 400 athletes who will compete for a chance to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit USParalympics.org/2016TeamTrials