(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
At the Edmonton, Alberta swim meet, Beth met the other S3 women from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Mexico. The women from Mexico and Germany held the top spots in the World Rankings; to race, they left their wheelchairs behind to stand and walk a step or two to the starting blocks. Their coaches helped them climb on and prepare to dive in. My daughter started the race in the water with an ineffectual push off the wall.
With the tough competition, Beth didn’t expect to earn a medal for a top three finish.
Also unexpected: the swimmer in the next lane stayed in her field of vision, sparking momentum. For the very first time in her life, she experienced how it felt to see and to race a true competitor, to beat her to the finish by less than a second, and to earn a third place international medal.
Beth surprised us next with second place in the 100-meter freestyle race.
Right after, officials tagged her for her first drug testing. They worked for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the same agency that tested Olympic athletes. Officials stayed close by as a Team USA coach supervised her cool down laps in a separate small pool. From there, Beth participated in her first ceremony for an international medal. Next, the coach explained the test procedure and walked with her while USADA officials led the way off the deck.
In the 100- and 200-meter events, Beth finished ahead of the S3 women from Germany and Mexico. She started to think of herself as a distance swimmer. The five S3 women in Alberta, Beth included, swam slower than their previous best times. Small health issues like spasms, skin scrapes, minor infections, and low-grade fevers had a bigger effect on those with severe disabilities compared to others who did not. Temperature changes impacted quads in a negative way, as well as not drinking enough water. The physical stress of traveling and time changes also factored in, one of the reasons that teams going to the Paralympics every four years arrived in the area weeks ahead of the actual event.
Beth rested in between the sessions of the three-day meet. No sight-seeing in Edmonton, except for the hilly view from the airport.
From the stands, I watched Beth on the deck. In between races, she laughed at the antics of the teenage boys on the team. They “borrowed” the Australian team's frog mascot and noisemakers, stoking a friendly rivalry. During her medal presentations, I used my deck pass to take pictures.
Beth earned her first international medals, two silver and two bronze. Medals that mattered.
We landed in Detroit to discover the airline had lost a sideguard, one of two small curved plastic shields to protect clothes from wheelchair wheels. A new shield cost $100. I bought one and started the long process to be reimbursed from the airline. After Alberta, she took the sideguards off before she boarded a plane.
Next destination of a non-stop summer: John Mayer in Columbus!
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