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I worked at not being a pushy parent and continued to follow my 16-year-old daughter’s lead. If Beth asked to go to the YMCA pool to practice on her own, we went, but I never suggested it. I worried about her getting run down from pushing herself too hard. Everything took more time and effort with a spinal cord injury.
After Beth figured out the balance needed to move on her stomach in the water, the butterfly seemed to be the most doable forward stroke. She took a breath after two arm strokes of the butterfly, as she did with the backstroke. Breathing was more of a challenge with her initial freestyle attempts, but the breaststroke was the hardest.
“When I first swam the breaststroke, I went backwards,” Beth said.
Once a week in Toledo, she tried to learn the butterfly, freestyle, and breaststroke. A coach sometimes worked with her in the water before her backstroke laps. At her practices without a coach at our local YMCA, she experimented with the forward strokes, despite impaired arms and no use of her legs.
Beth competed with the butterfly for the first time at the Turkey Meet in Toledo on Thanksgiving weekend. She loved how it felt to fly (slowly) through the water. She also selected her events for the Ohio Senior Meet in March. With typical courage, she signed up for the 150 Individual Medley (IM) that included strokes she could hardly swim.
A week before the March meet, a Toledo coach suggested dropping the IM. Beth talked him into keeping it. It wasn’t smooth or pretty, but she swam the butterfly and breaststroke (and backstroke) nine months after Seattle at the Senior Meet in Erlanger, Kentucky. I lifted her out of the pool while the packed crowd applauded.
Beth and I hadn't known that our hometown had a swim club — until they attended the same Senior Meet with their coach, Peggy Ewald. We had only known about the high school's team. Peggy talked to Beth’s Toledo coaches and volunteered to help with some of her solo practices in Tiffin.
We met Peggy at the YMCA pool about once a week as Beth pursued her quest to master all of the strokes. They took on the intricate details of moving and breathing in the water.
“Coach Ewald was excited to work with me from the first time I met her,” Beth said.
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