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Summer vacation wound down. At the YMCA, Coach Peggy tackled the difficult details of the freestyle. She moved in the water with the grace of a seasoned swimmer and often joined Beth in the pool to help with technique.
Learning how to swim mimicked the physical therapy process.
Beth paid close attention to detailed instructions and understood the goal. Small gains and slow progress did not discourage her. She visualized the future goal and put the pieces together bit by bit.
Peggy asked Beth to join the Columbian High School swim team for her senior year. I had reservations initially. I knew the team had a great coach. I wondered if Beth’s participation would be mutually beneficial or a token inclusion? A reluctant Athletic Director also needed to be convinced, especially since accessible school buses were rarely available. As a compromise, I agreed to drive with my daughter to away meets. Watching Peggy at more practices, I trusted her instincts on the merits of the high school team.
“Coach Ewald was excited to work with me from the first time I met her,” Beth said, “and she’s helped me make all my strokes better.”
Soon after the Alberta swim meet, Beth, 17, made the U.S. Paralympic National Swim Team, a milestone achieved much earlier than expected. We celebrated with Maria and John over frozen yogurt sundaes. Beth called Ben first with the news since he followed her progress and understood the complexities of her S3 classification.
National Team status included team swimsuits and other gear, as well as stipends for training costs and specific meets. And a big stack of paperwork. Beth’s lung doctors signed a long form to allow her only asthma medication, a maintenance drug. She needed to submit training logs year round. Each practice became an official workout with a coach’s plan written in a swimming shorthand I never learned. Team status also required reports of her daily whereabouts to facilitate random drug testing through USADA, the same agency that tested Olympic athletes.
In August, I dropped off Beth and her friend at a John Mayer concert in Columbus. I easily imagined them singing loudly to the invincible lyrics of No Such Thing. The girls wore hipster hats bought for the occasion. Beth donned the same canvas hat with gray stripes during the 'Fishing Without Boundaries' weekend. John and I held hands and watched our talented daughters belt out a song in harmony on the karaoke stage at the hotel.
On the boat the next day, Beth caught more Lake Erie perch than her dad for the second year in a row.
NEXT! Wrapping up a non-stop summer: Fifteen Notable Firsts!
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