Robert Griswold of United States celebrates after winning the men's 100-meter backstroke S8 during day 1 of the Para Swimming World Championship Mexico City 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)
Nearly five years ago, these swimmers graced the podiums of Rio as medal winners at the Paralympic Games 2016.
Now with the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials coming up June 17-20 in Minneapolis, they’re ready to secure their spots in Tokyo this summer and add to the hardware already collected. There haven’t been many opportunities to test themselves recently, with the only international competition in over a year coming at the World Para Swimming World Series stop in Lewisville, Texas, in mid-April. Between that and having an extra year of training to prepare for these Games, however, these athletes can’t wait to get things underway.
A two-time bronze medalist in Rio at the age of 16, Aspden is seeking a spot in her second Paralympic Games. The native of Raleigh, North Carolina, who competes in the S9, SB8, SM9 classifications, is competing in four events at trials picked up some podiums in Lewisville. She currently holds the top time in the world in the women’s SB9 100-meter backstroke.
Coan made her first Paralympic Games in 2012 at the age of 16 then had a breakout year in Rio in 2016. She set a Paralympic record in the women’s S7 50-meter freestyle route to winning gold, then also won gold in the 100 and 400 freestyles, and silver in the 34 pt. 4x100 freestyle. Her five medals led Team USA. Coan, who competes in the S7, SB6, SM7 classifications, comes into this year’s Paralympic trials as the reigning world champion in the 100 and 400 frees. She has the fastest times in the world this year in the S7 100 free, 400 free and 100 backstroke.
A four-time Paralympian and five-time medalist, Garcia-Tolson is coming out of retirement to attempt to qualify for his fifth Games. In his most recent Paralympic appearance, the 32-year-old earned a silver in the men’s 200m IM. Garcia-Tolson will compete in theS7, SB6, SM7 classifications at trials.
Griswold was 18 when he won a bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2015 world championships, and he parlayed that into a spot on the 2016 Paralympic team and a bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke. Competing in the S8, SB7, SM8 classifications, he took another leap forward in 2019 when he became the first man to swim the 50-meter backstroke in under 30 seconds at the World Para Swimming World Series finale in Berlin, then won gold in the 100-meter backstroke and 200-meter individual medley at the 2019 world championships.
made her Paralympic debut in Rio and won the silver medal in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. She recently penned an article as part of DeVry’s What’s Your Why series and wrote that in addition to loving testing how far her body can go, she hopes to inspire the next generation of female Paralympic athletes and those in the Little People of America community. She won the SB6 100-meter breaststroke in Lewisville and currently holds the second-fastest time in the world this year in that event.
No list of Paralympic swimmers to watch could be complete without Jessica Long. The S8, SB7, SM8 star will try to make her fifth Paralympic team this summer, and there’s not a thing to suggest she won’t be successful. Long owns a total of 23 Paralympic medals, and 13 of them are gold. Six more and she’ll pass former training partner Michael Phelps. In Rio, Long took gold in the 200-meter individual medley, plus three silver medals and two bronzes. Her seventh world championships in 2019 saw her collect another five silver medals plus one bronze.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks made her Paralympic debut in 2016, realizing a goal set while recovering from hip injuries suffered in Iraq while serving as a combat medic. An member of the Army World Class Athlete Program, she won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke and bronze as a member of the 24 pt. 4x100-meter medley team in Rio. Marks, who competes in S6, SB6, SM6, made her world championship debut in 2019, winning gold in the 100 back, and took gold in the event at the most recent world series event after setting an American record in the prelims. She also won the S6 100-meter freestyle with the fastest time in the world so far this year, as well as the 50-meter butterfly, in .
Meyers won silver in the 200-meter IM and bronze in the 100-meter freestyle in London in 2012, and her performance four years later in Rio was even better. She won her first gold medal and set a world record in the women’s S13 100-meter butterfly on the first night of competition, then won the -meter IM and 400-meter freestyle, setting another world record in the process. Meyers also added silver in the 100-meter freestyle. Meyers found the top of the podium several times in Lewisville, in events including the S12 100-meter freestyle, S12 100-meter butterfly, SB12 100-meter breaststroke and S12 400-meter freestyle (top time in the world this year).
After taking silver and bronze in Rio, Smith will be seeking her first Paralympic gold medal should she qualify for Competing the in S9, SB9, SM9 classifications, Smith most recently took silver in the women’s 100-meter butterfly at the 2021 Lewisville Para Swimming World Series and will look to continue her success in Minneapolis.
A Minneapolis-area native, is ready to go for her third Paralympic team on her home turf. Over the course of her she’s set 15 world and 34 American records, won 15 world championship medals and two Paralympic medals. In other words, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Competing in the S7, SB6, SM7 classifications, was back in action in Lewisville alongside many of her 2016 teammates and won gold in the S7 50-meter butterfly with the fastest time in the world this year at 34.53 seconds. She was also second in the S7 100-meter freestyle.
Young was the youngest member of the entire 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team when she made her debut in London at the age of 14. Classified S13, SB13, SM13, she finished as high as fifth place in the 100-meter breaststroke, then won bronze Rio in 2016 in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. One year later Young won her first world title, taking the win in the 100-meter breaststroke. The St. Louis native is entered in four events at this year’s trials.