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Para Swimming Digest: Anniversaries, Dogs and Event News for the Week of October 12

By Todd Kortemeier | Oct. 14, 2020, 3:12 p.m. (ET)

Gold medalist Rebecca Meyers celebrates on the podium at the medal ceremony for Women's 100m Butterfly - S13 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept. 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Here’s a look at what’s been going on in the world of Para swimming for the last few weeks in the news and on social media…

Social Media Roundup

On Instagram, sometimes dogs are more famous than their owners, even if they’re owned by a three-time Paralympic gold medalist in swimming. Becca Meyers’ dog Birdie has an Instagram account of her own, @birdie_wonder_dog. But Birdie appears on her owner’s account plenty as well, including on Oct. 5 when she celebrated her seventh birthday. 

“Happy birthday to the hardest working pup I know,” Meyers wrote, then tagging her pup’s account. “Hope your day is filled with lots of snuggles, belly rubs and naps!”

Birdie is more than just a best friend to Meyers, a two-time Paralympian and six-time medalist. Birdie is her guide dog, faithfully going wherever she goes.

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Another famous Paralympic pooch belongs to Sophia Herzog, Paralympic medalist at Rio in 2016. Less than four months ago, Herzog proudly shared she and her boyfriend Nick had adopted a rescue dog named Odie, a lab/border collie mix. 

Or is he? 

On Oct. 9, Herzog posted the results of a DNA test done on Odie to see just what breeds he was. 

“We didn’t care what breed(s) he was but it was super fun to find out what he really is,” Herzog wrote. “Nick and I were way off in most of our guesses.”

It turns out Odie was just 15.6 percent lab, and was mostly Great Pyrenees (39.9%) and Australian cattle dog (17.9%). Other breeds were American pit bull terrier, Australian shepherd, and rottweiler. But no border collie.

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Thirteen-time Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long recently talked with TeamUSA.org about her first year of marriage and the difficulty of how most of it has been consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Long marked her one-year anniversary with husband Lucas Winters with a post on Instagram. 

“We did it,” Long wrote. “What a year full of so much love, learning, and patience. I couldn’t be more thankful for this journey we get to go on together and I am so honored to be your wife.”

With 23 overall medals across four Paralympic Games, Long is the second-most decorated Paralympian in U.S. history. She also owns 52 career world championship medals, 35 of them gold.

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Yesterday was #NationalCoachesDay - while a day late, I still thought it was a great excuse to honor my coach, @crossfitswimcoach - because without him I wouldn’t be chasing down my dream of representing #TeamUSA at my third Paralympic Games. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Steve first coached me when I was an age group swimmer and then coached my sisters and I, along with years of fellow Eagan Wildcat swimmers through high school swimming. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ He was the coach that established my love for the sport of swimming long before I even knew it would become my lifeline. After I was paralyzed it was because of that deep rooted love that I turned to the water as a way to guide me forward. That passion ignited a fire within that lead me to the London 2012 Games. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In 2014, after suffering a severe injury I considered retiring. I will never forget that day, as I sat in the car following a doctors appointment feeling utterly defeated. Meanwhile, my husband was in the grocery store where he stood in the aisles and called Steve, who I had stayed in touch with but hadn’t trained with since my days as high school swimmer. Unbeknownst to me, Jay believed in his heart of hearts that Steve was the person to guide me back to the pool - truth is, that phone call is why 6 years later I am still competing. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Soon after we met up at the pool and began fighting for this dream. Each day, regardless of if my body had 30 minutes to give or could make it through a workout -there he sat. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ He believed in me when not many did, he showed up and reignited my passion for the sport. Most of all his support has never been predicated on my ability to win, but rather rooted in helping me become the best I can possibly be - regardless of the outcome. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ To this day, 6 years later - there he sits as we continue to chase this dream. So let’s celebrate the Steve’s of the world - the coaches who push us to heights we don’t even dare dream possible, the ones who show up despite the outcome and push us to reach our fullest potential! 📸: @lena_moss

A post shared by MalloryWeggemann (@malloryweggemann) on

Paralympic gold medalist Mallory Weggemann paid tribute to her coach Steve Van Dyne as part of #NationalCoachesDay on Oct. 6. Van Dyne first coached Weggemann as a high school swimmer in Minnesota, and the two stayed in touch as Weggemann went on to become a Paralympic gold medalist. She recalled in 2014 after permanent nerve damage threatened to end her promising career that it was Van Dyne who got her back in the pool and competing for medals again.

“He believed in me when not many did, he showed up and reignited my passion for the sport, Weggemann wrote. “Most of all his support has never been predicated on my ability to win, but rather rooted in helping me become the best I can possibly be — regardless of the outcome.”

In The News

On Oct. 8, Swimming Canada canceled the Can Am Para Swimming Open due to surging COVID-19 cases across Canada. The event, held in conjunction with U.S. Paralympics Swimming, was due to be held Dec. 11-13 in Vancouver. … The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) has canceled its 2020 IWAS World Games, formerly known as the Stoke Mandeville Games and considered the first Paralympic Games. The event was originally scheduled for February before being postponed to April and then December because of COVID-19. … Swimming World, an online publication of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, has a short interview with Dee Sapp, mother of Tokyo-bound swimmer Lawrence Sapp. Dee talks about the challenges and rewards of being the parent of a Paralympian. Just turned 19, Lawrence is already a world champion in the S14 classification 100-meter backstroke from 2017, and earned a silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly in London last year. 

Todd Kortemeier

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to USParaSwimming.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Sophia Herzog

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Mallory Weggemann

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Jessica Long