Short on competitions during this highly unusual year, members of the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team continued to train and stayed quite active on social media. Here’s a representative sample of what they were up to in 2020.
It’s almost hard to remember now but there was some competitive swimming in 2020. The World Para Swimming World Series calendar began as normal with the first meet taking place in Melbourne, Australia, Feb. 14-16. Many swimmers posted about the excitement of being back competing in the warm Australian summer.
Sophia Herzog, who raced in the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke and 200 individual medley, toasted the weather: “Swimming outside in February,” she said. “Melbourne you are fabulous.”
Becca Meyers posted a picture with her guide dog Birdie, celebrating her first meet of the year in January, which included an American record.
And Leanne Smith celebrated some records of her own, setting one world, one American and five Pan American records.
“Couldn’t be happier to start the season out on such a high note,” Smith wrote on Jan. 20. “Now it’s time to get back to training. Trials are just a few months away!!”
But the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Swimming, set to take place in Minneapolis June 25-28, of course never did take place and were postponed to 2021. The coronavirus pandemic soon halted all forms of competition around the country. Swimmers had to get creative to not only stay safe but just to stay sane.
Masks soon became commonplace among athletes and non-athletes alike. Ellie Marks had a mask of a different sort for her home workouts.
Swimmers can of course replicate their movements and actions from home, but nothing replaces being in a real live pool. Mallory Weggemann did her best though, even introducing a black line on the floor to get as close as she can to the real thing. For Weggemann, a Paralympic gold medalist, the black line represents more than just a visual cue.
“Regardless of where you are, what you are going through,” she wrote, “it is a constant we can always rely on to lead us forward.”
By the fall, some swimmers were able to get back in a competitive pool when the US Open allowed Para athletes to compete. While the competition may have looked quite different from normal, swimmers like Lizzi Smith felt normal for a while.
“I’ve waited a long time to say this ... its race week!!” she said. “It comes with a lot of nerves but even more gratitude to get to race again.”
Life of course does go on even in the middle of a global pandemic, and there were many swimmers who found a lot to celebrate.
In a normal year, Colleen Young would have been in Connecticut for her graduation from Fairfield University, where she completed a record-setting career in 2020. Instead, the Paralympic medalist celebrated around her hometown of St. Louis.
Leslie Cichocki received a full scholarship to DeVry University, which partners with Team USA to offer scholarships for eligible Olympians and Paralympians. Cichocki started her coursework in the spring.
It was easy to miss in a photo that also contained a puppy, but Alyssia Crook showed off her engagement ring on Oct. 24. Her boyfriend Charles popped the question on a camping trip.
Tye Dutcher also had a surprise proposal, even though he’s already married. As Dutcher explained in his Oct. 25 post:
“Emma Rose, we have done things pretty backwards (you know, eloping first and now an engagement 😉) but who cares? God’s plan with our story is incredible and a testimonial. You have and will always deserve the very best. I love you Em, forever.”
Emma thought they were going to the beach for a sunset surf, only to turn around to see Dutcher down on one knee.