Swim clinic displays shapes, skills, abilities of everyone
With so much cultural and societal division in the world, it is truly a blessing and a privilege to witness any event where people come together for a common passion.
The Mac Crutchfield Foundation furthered its vision of making competitive swimming enjoyable and accessible to everyone Saturday in a very special way: It brought together Special Olympics swimmers of Central Florida and decorated Olympians Ryan Lochte and Caeleb Dressel for a swim clinic at Windermere Preparatory School.
While many were awed by the talents and gifts of these athletes in competition, I believe that an even greater sight to behold was the sincerity and genuineness of Lochte and Dressel, as they interacted with these athletes of all shapes, skill levels and intellectual abilities.
These Olympic stars seemed as impressed with the Special Olympians as many Americans were with them during the worldwide competition. And deservedly so. While Lochte and Dressel spent their formative years focusing on their training to be super athletes, the Special Olympians invested heart and soul into transcending intellectual and developmental disabilities. It hasn’t been easy for them, but having done so made them even stronger and more determined. They’ve channeled this determination into excelling in competition.
The Windermere swim clinic honored the memory of Mac Crutchfield, who died in a drowning accident at age 12 despite being an accomplished swimmer. The Mac Crutchfield Foundation was established in 2009 to continue his love for the water by inspiring everyone to swim.
Naysayers might call out super athletes’ and celebrities’ motives when they contribute their time to philanthropic causes, labeling them as publicity stunts. However, I feel that it is important for those with a global platform — especially Olympians — to step up and help. Their influence is widespread, and they can leave indelible impressions that inspire the masses, especially young people.
As an observer at the event, I could see the energy surge from all the Olympians who volunteered their time to the young athletes with disabilities.
Most notable was Dressel. His athletic stature pales in comparison to the maturity and compassion he showed the young swimmers, their parents and their supporters.
Celeste Sychterz — the Athletes Without Limits swimming coach and mother of Team USA Paralympic hopeful Ian Soules — said of the event and the Olympians, “They [Dressel and Lochte] were surprisingly talented with the kids … Despite the fact that most of their time is spent with world-class athletes and trainers, they were able to effortlessly teach the athletes at different levels of development in ways that they would absorb and remember.
“Seeing Caeleb’s parents and Ryan’s wife and baby there says so much about their respective characters and the fact that they valued the experience and were proud to be a part of it and share it with their families. It was more than a donation of resources to a cause — the gift was their time.”
Far too often we find celebrities and athletes getting negative mainstream press for their mistakes and shortcomings. We should consider highlighting and directing our attention to positive and authentic stories such as Saturday’s event.
Such inspiration can truly last a lifetime.
Frank E. Barberena, 21, is majoring in human communication at the University of Central Florida.