Written by Alyssa Wilson ~ Editor-in-Chief
Photo of Mei White posing with swim caps. Photo provided by Mei White.
Sophomore Mei White was born with a proximal femoral focal deficiency in her right leg, which she explains as her right leg basically being a shorter version of her left leg. Due to this White started swimming as a form of physical therapy at a very early age.
“All the other physical therapists did not know what to do with me, because I had so much energy. I was just a ball of chaos,” says White.
White’s mother enrolled her in her first swim team after discovering an adaptive swim team specifically designed for people with physical disabilities. Originally from Macon, Ga. White and her mom would commute to weekly practices in Atlanta.
The coach of the team saw something special in White and knew that she had talent to be reckoned with. Out of this, White moved to Orlando, Florida to swim and train on another specialized team for close to five years.
White says, “When I was living in Orlando is when I really started to pick things up. The team where I was originally from was not very good and just didn’t give me what I needed.”
White tried out for her first national swim team at the age of 13 and from there went on to compete at meets in the United Kingdom, Berlin, Singapore and the Parapan American Games in Peru.
In Peru, White won a gold medal for 100 breaststroke and a silver medal for 400 freestyle, making her a gold winning paralympian.
Most recently White tried out for the upcoming Parapan Games taking place in Santiago, Chile in mid November.
Two weeks ago, in mid-Sept. White traveled to California to complete her final trial to compete, and on Sept. 22 found out that she qualified for November’s competition.
“This is something that’s been on my mind for so long and I’m glad I finally made it happen,” says White.
In addition to finding out about her spot at the Parapan American Games, White also competed in the first Lynchburg swim meet of the season on Saturday, Sept. 23.
This year is the first swim season that head coach, Brad Dunn has opened up the team to include athletes with physical disabilities.
Distinct from the Special Olympics, the paralympic movement, which is equal to the Olympics, is not widely recognized and Mei notes the importance of Dunn’s expansion of the team.
“It helps the paralympic movement forward because then it’s just one person that knows about it, and then the assistant coaches know about it and they tell people,” says Mei.
Assistant Coach, Emily Zimcosky says, “It is exciting to learn more about the Paralympic organization and how swimming differs within, but the biggest take away for me has been the reminder to ‘meet student-athletes where they are at’. Though it would be nice, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of coaching.”
White has quickly become friends with other members on the team and fits into the swim team’s culture.
“It has been such a pleasure to have Mei as a teammate. Mei demonstrates great sportsmanship, teamwork, and a strong work ethic, which positively influences and motivates the entire team. I love her outgoing and bubbly personality, as well as her endless support for all her teammates,” says junior and swimmer Savannah Borroughs.
White will compete in the Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile from November 17 – 26 in addition to competing during Lynchburg’s own swim season.
To keep up with the schedule of meets for this season visit here.