Inspirations in Our Ranks, Part 1

National qualifying times for just a second and think of your swimming capabilities. Pretend for just a second, that when you try to swim, your arm is unable to catch the water. Your muscles are weak and your movements are uncoordinated. You have no trunk control and no functional leg movements. Your legs drag and someone has to help you begin swimming. You have to swim the backstroke because you are unable to turn your head to breathe when swimming freestyle.

For these purposes, you are considered what’s called an “S1″ (the most extremely physically disabled swimming classification for freestyle) and unbelievably perhaps, you participate in as many swimming events as you can and train almost every day. Such is the sporting life of the many physically impaired USMS swimmers.

Naturally, not everyone who’s involved with adapted swimming has a profile even nearly that severe. Indeed, running down the freestyle classification profiles, an “S10″ is regarded as one who has “an effective catch, efficient arm movements, full trunk control, strong kick, (with possible) minimal loss of function in the legs or single below-knee, double foot or hand amputation.

That’s not even taking into account the classifications for other types of disabilities, including blindness and loss of hearing, and the other strokes (“SB” standing for Swimming Breaststroke. “SM” stands for Swimming Medley.) Disabled swimming is an extremely organized, loyal community of devoted swimmers, and the USMS swimmers in their ranks are certainly among our most dedicated members.

Although not a large percentage of USMS swimmers are in the adapted community, those who are cite swimming as their lifeblood, their all-consuming passion and their favorite thing in the world to do (sounds quite a bit like the rest of us)! We often see our disabled membership competing at USMS meets, and it’s important to remember that their training regime and goals of good technique and best times are exactly the same as most other competing masters swimmers. Qualifying for the Paralympic Games and swimming in the Disabled Swimming Championships are lofty goals.
Sue Moucha is a USMS swimmer that lives in Brandon, Florida. She participates in almost every local and regional meet in the Gold Coast area. Her story:

“Masters swimming is very important to me. Born as a hemiplagic cerebral palsy baby, which involves my entire right side, I had extensive physical therapy and wore a brace on my right leg until I was in the fifth grade. When I was a little girl, my mother would make me swim laps at the local pool before I could play. She was told by a swim coach and a lifeguard that she was working me too hard. However, mom knew instinctively what was best for me. I am forever grateful for those therapy sessions, and today you cannot get me out of the water.

“When I would go to the doctor, he would undoubtedly ask me how my swimming was coming and constantly remind me that I had to swim for therapy. This advice did not always agree with me, as swimming was more than a drudge at that time than pleasure. I did not have much physical strength.

“Coming from a sports-minded family, I was always around sports including watching them on TV or in person. With two other sisters in swimming and a brother in football and basketball, I was the spectator. I never thought I would be participating in sports as I am today.

“My family never stopped me from doing anything. The concept of setting a goal, seeing the benchmarks along the way, then the ultimate fulfillment of the goal always intrigued me.

They encouraged me to assess what I could do and go forward from there, even if it meant adapting both equipment (my bicycle) and my swim strokes.

“One day in college, following my doctor’s past advice, I just started swimming laps with the philosophy of ‘I can do it.’ I knew that if I did not swim or exercise in another way, my body would be a basket case in the years to come.

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