Paralympian for Life

Feb 24, 2014
Tagged with: Paralympian for Life

Born and raised in the small town of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, its probably not the place you would look to find a Paralympic swimmer. Despite being born with cerebral palsy, I was introduced to sport and activities from my friends that were able bodied (AB). The thought of wheelchair and adaptive sports were only introduced in an annual competition. All competitors were truly weekend warriors! I was happy just to participate with my friends and family. I am blessed because I was never treated differently in my neighborhood. I was one of the gang who happened to use a wheelchair and walker to participate in the same activities as my friends.

The sport I love the most is and continues to be swimming. It all started on my neighborhood summer swim team. I always finished last for the most part. My goals were beating my times and chasing the feet in front of me. After two years of high school swimming, which included swim meets with disability sports organizations, I was exposed to serious training and coaching. This prepared me to compete for my school and participate in meets for athletes with disabilities. Through hard work, my times dropped. This provided an opportunity to swim at the Nationals for athletes for cerebral palsy, stroke, and head injury.

Once arriving at the Nationals and registering, I was told that my times qualified me to participate for the Nationals that included all disability groups. It was at this time that I first heard of a much larger competition known as Paralympic Swim Trials. This small town girl was now in the big leagues. I came to realize that I had the chance to make the 1992 Paralympic Team.

Two weeks after the Nationals, a letter arrived listing my results. It also said “work on dropping your times because you are going to the Paralympics.” I immediately went back to the pool to start training because I was on my way to Barcelona, Spain.  My first international trip at the age of 18! Instantly, I felt this competitive spirit and a sense of pride grow within me that I think only comes from representing your country. It is this same pride that has led me to compete in now six Paralympics Games. I pray that this feeling of pride and competing for our country is a feeling that will never end for me.

These opportunities, fueled by a competitive spirit, has guided me to many years of training. There were numerous early mornings training sessions that lasted well into many late nights. My family and coaches taught me that dedication, hard-work, and sportsmanship are the founding principles that will guide my swimming endeavors. It is so much ingrained with in me that I feel it can never be taken away. The outcome of my swimming participation has molded me into a dedicated, hard working, and caring person that works full-time, lives independently and maintains a healthy active lifestyle.

My favorite memory of the Paralympic Games is the feeling of entering the stadium as an athlete representing our country during Opening Ceremonies. This feeling, in my first Paralympics in Barcelona, was the most memorable of the entire trip. The sights and sounds of entering the stadium and marching behind the American Flag gave me goose bumps. It  sent my heart into my throat. I was so thrilled! I thought I was dreaming! It was an overwhelming emotional experience, an unforgettable surreal moment.

My six Paralympic experiences have allowed me to travel the world and make many new teammates and friends. I got to learn about many different cultures. These experiences have allowed me to mature and grown as a person faster than I would have otherwise. It has instilled within me a new resolve to live a life helping your fellow man in kindness and love.

I have won gold medals at the World Championships. I have also earned a silver and bronze medal at the Paralympics. There have been Paralympics where I missed the medal stand completely. Each time I cried tears of joy and pride! I bleed red, white, and blue for I am Aimee Bruder a Paralympian for life!

I can attest, dreams do come true, even from the smallest towns. Thank you again to all that support me in all my endeavors. It is true in the phrase, “it takes a village!”

Enjoy the Paralympics! I will be watching with tears of pride! Go USA!

 

 

Author: Aimee Bruder