Rudy Garcia-Tolson was coached by Jimi Flowers leading up to the Paralympic Games Beijing 2008, where he won both a gold and bronze medal.
U.S. Paralympics Swimming will be hosting the 10th annual Jimi Flowers Classic at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from June 1-2. The meet honors former coach, mentor and manager Jimi Flowers. Flowers worked with USA Swimming as a national team coordinator, U.S. Paralympics national team manager and resident team coach. In 2009, he passed away in a tragic climbing accident. U.S. Paralympics talked to some of the many swimmers who were coached by Flowers, as we remember and honor his legacy.
Four-time Paralympian, five-time Paralympic medalist
I was a resident-athlete in Colorado Springs back in 2007 and Jimi was the aquatics director at the time, so we would see him around the pool deck quite often. He was always smiling, always happy. He just seemed like he loved what he did. It was like the pool deck was his second home. In that season, we went through a few coaching changes and ended up having Jimi for our substitute coach for a few practices. Right away, we instantly fell in love with his attitude and way of doing things. It was an instant connection. Little did we know that a few weeks later, he would give up his position as aquatic director and become our coach. It was a very smooth transition – we were a very solid group, and then adding Jimi to the equation just made it the highlight of my 20-year swimming career. Jimi would put on a lot of music while we were swimming. He understood the positivity around that, and would be singing, dancing up to Kanye West’s “Graduation” album up on the deck.
We lost a great coach. I think about Jimi almost every day, and it’s crazy that it has been 10 years. Jimi treated everyone so well, and that’s how I want to be viewed too. It’s admirable that not a single person has anything negative to say about him. I carry Jimi with me in my spirit all the time.
Two-time Paralympian (swimming and triathlon), bronze-medalist paratriathlete, three-time ITU world champion
I had the pleasure of being coached by Jimi leading into and at the Paralympic Games Beijing 2008. He impacted the life of anyone he came across and was affectionally called 'a walking exclamation point' for his huge smile and contagiously happy, positive attitude. Jimi's attitude towards life was one that everyone should strive to have. He taught by example, teaching us all to not sweat the small stuff and that we should all wake up with a smile, a cup of coffee in hand and blaring the music by the pool as loud as we can. I still think of Jimi every time I get in the pool, imagining him on the side of the pool screaming "GO, GO, GO" and believing in us more than we believed in ourselves. The world was a better place with Jimi in it and he is dearly missed.
Suzanne “SB” Scott
Two-time Paralympic swimmer, four-time Paralympic medalist
I was always grateful for the ways Jimi took my swimming career seriously as a Paralympic athlete. When I moved to Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic Training Center as a fifteen-year-old in 2007, I was never made to feel as if I were too young to be there, or that a world record was impossible, or that I should take my Paralympic career less seriously. During my career, I was fortunate to work with a number of incredible coaches, but Jimi was certainly one of the best. When training under his tutelage, there was never a doubt that I was working with someone who knew the sport and knew people well enough to motivate them to achieve greatness. But what I really appreciate about Jimi’s role in my life has less to do with my athletic career. I appreciated how he regularly asked about school and my interests outside of swimming. I enjoyed the motivational quotes he would write on the whiteboard with each practice, just as much as the goofy YouTube videos he would occasionally send the team at the end of a hard training week—just to give us a good laugh. One of the most meaningful moments with him came during a powerful conversation I had with him shortly after a race at the Paralympics in Beijing 2008 when he reminded me that my swimming career did not define me as a person. While Jimi Flowers was a great swim coach, what I have been most thankful for were the ways he impacted me as an incredible mentor and friend.
Two-time Paralympic swimmer
Jimi was more than a coach - he was my first mentor and much of what he taught me transcends swimming. While he was my coach, he believed in me wholeheartedly and taught me to believe in myself, even when I was full of doubt. I’ve carried this through my life, and nowadays I try to instill that same sense of belief in those who work for me. Jimi brought out the best in all of us, and I try daily to follow his example.
One-time Paralympian, Paralympic bronze medalist, former world record holder in the S9 100m and 200m backstroke
Jimi was the best coach I've ever had, bar none. He always knew what to say to get you pumped up, or to calm you down, and he always believed in you, even when you may have not believed in yourself. However, I think the biggest impact Jimi had on me was his impact outside of the pool. He always used to put inspirational quotes on the white board in the mornings before practice and I loved to read them. My favorite was "If you don't want to do something, you'll find an excuse. If you do, you'll find a way". This has essentially become my life's motto, and when I think about the quote, it reminds me of Jimi and inspires me to pursue my goals with everything I have, no matter what the obstacles may be.