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Entries in Swimming (11)

Saturday
May112013

Teen Without Legs, Only One Arm Competes in World Championships

Courtesy Joyce Wheeler(LYNWOOD, Wash.) -- Born without legs and only one arm, Kayla Wheeler, a 16-year-old high school student from Lynnwood, Wash., is gearing up to compete in the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships this August in Montreal. She's one of 25 American swimmers who has qualified to represent team USA.

"I'm just excited to see all of them. It's fun, and it fills me with joy to know that I am going to be spending two weeks of my life with some of the best swimmers in the world," Wheeler told ABC News.

Wheeler will compete in the S-1 class, which is the Paralympics category for those who are the most disabled. It includes only two other swimmers.

"I am basically the most disabled you can be and still swim," Wheeler said.

It was at the Can/Am Para-Swimming Championship last month in Minneapolis where Kayla broke her own record, with a time of 1:30 in the 50-meter butterfly.

"I broke it twice, once in the morning and once in finals. It was my own world record already, and I broke it again. It still feels really awesome," she said. Wheeler came away from the meet as female swimmer of the day for all three days of competition, and female swimmer of the meet, earning three gold medals in every division she competed in.

Wheeler got her swimming start at the age of 8 months, after a doctor suggested that she try hydrotherapy to help her learn how to balance her body and sit up.

"As an infant she loved the water," her mother, Joyce Wheeler, told ABC News. "I guess I never thought she would learn how to swim, but I just wanted her to be safe around the water."

That's when Joyce Wheeler set out to find someone who could give her daughter real swimming lessons. Amy Rust, coach of the Barracudas swim team in Edmonds, Wash., took on that challenge, propelling Wheeler into her swimming career.

When she was 10 years old, Wheeler joined the Shadow Seal Swim Club. Accredited by USA Swimming, the club offers swimmers with disabilities opportunities to compete.

"I had my eye on Kayla [Wheeler] about two years before she joined my team, Kiko Van Zandt, a coach and pediatric rehabilitation clinic nurse at Seattle Children's Hospital, told ABC News.

"She [Wheeler] is a role model to people not only with disabilities, but also able-bodied people too," Van Zandt said. "At a recent local meet, she got the crowd going and people were seeing that if she can do it, then my kid can do it too."

Wheeler inspired close friend Breanna Sprenger, an 11-year-old from Avon, Ohio, born with the same disabilities as Wheeler. The two met through the International Child Amputee Network. Sprenger now competes with Wheeler and an Australian athlete in the S-1 category for the most disabled.

"I actually taught her how to swim," said Wheeler. "I showed her parents the fact that it was possible for her to swim. So now she is competitively swimming and following in my footsteps so to speak. We call each other the body twins. She calls me her mentor and I call her my mentee."

Over the past six years, Wheeler has competed at the Can /Am Para-Swimming Championships, the World Championships in Rio de Janeirio, where she took home a bronze medal, the World Championships in the Netherlands, as well as the 2012 Paralympic Trials last June in North Dakota, where she won female swimmer of the meet. That qualified her for the 2012 Paralympics in London.

But she couldn't compete in London, because there were not enough swimmers for her to compete against in her category -- there must be at least five swimmers from two different countries for there to be a race.

"The classifications get a little frustrating," said her mother Joyce Wheeler. "She started in the S-3 class. At the beginning she was at the top of the class and the more people who came in bumped her down at the bottom of the class. There are not than many people in her S-1 swimming class. She is out there beating her own records and times."

But Wheeler's goals -- and talents -- stretch beyond competitive swimming. She was recently named the 2012 USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, earning a grade point average of a 3.8, while taking classes at her high school and a local community college through the Running Start program.

"I eventually want to go through law school and eventually become a disability rights right attorney," said Wheeler. When Wheeler is not in the pool or studying, she enjoys snow skiing, playing baseball and being on her high school's rocketry and robotics teams.

She also helps to coach nondisabled kids to swim. "The youngest person I have helped was in pre-K, and the oldest was 11 or 12 years old," Wheeler said.

"I want to continue as long as I physically can continue, and I am hoping to make the 2016 Rio Paralympic team," said Wheeler. "I think a lot of it is just going to depend on if they can get a lot of S-1 swimmers from other countries. As of now, my times are good enough, but now it's going to depend on how many people they are going to get onto the team.

"My parents have always taught me that I can do anything that I put my mind to," said Wheeler. So I just put my mind to it."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct252012

Former Olympic Swim Coach Charged with Child Abuse

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md.) -- A once-prominent swim coach who trained Olympic athletes and thousands of other young hopefuls was charged Thursday with abusing one of his teen swimmers 30 years ago.

It is the latest blow to USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body, since ABC News broke news of a sexual abuse scandal within its ranks.

Rick Curl, 63, who founded Maryland's Curl-Burke Swim Club in 1978, is alleged to have had a four-year sexual relationship with swimmer Kelley Davies beginning when she was 13 in 1983. When Davies' parents discovered the relationship in 1987 by reading her diary, Curl paid them $150,000 in return for their silence, according to the terms of a 1989 settlement revealed by the Washington Post earlier this year.

"The sexual abuse progressed to an inappropriate sexual relationship," the Montgomery County Police Department said in a statement. Curl has been charged with one count of child abuse, and surrendered to police Thursday.

Davies, now 43 and known by her married name, Kelley Currin, swam with Curl until she was 18 and is cooperating with the investigation. Her attorney Bob Allard, who has represented other victims, said she "is pleased that justice is going to be carried out."

Curl's lawyers, Thomas J. Kelly and Bruce L. Marcus, released a statement that said Curl is "a good man" and "a devoted father and husband."

"When the allegations were made public," said Kelly and Marcus, "many of the swimmers and their families reached out to us to offer their support and to reiterate that Rick was an excellent coach, a good person, and a man that provided them and their children with strong moral leadership. We look forward to having Mr. Curl's positions made clear in the coming weeks."

USA Swimming banned Curl for life in September. In a statement, USA Swimming said that it believed its report to the Montgomery County Police Department had "sparked the action" against Curl.

"USA Swimming's Director of Safe Sport, Susan Woessner, reported the information USA Swimming received on Rick Curl to the Montgomery County PD on July 24, 2012 via phone, and via follow-up email," said the statement. "USA Swimming has also completed its investigation and review process, which resulted in the organization permanently banning Rick Curl from USA Swimming membership on Sept. 18, 2012. "

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug212012

Diana Nyad Pulled from Water, Ending Historic Swim

ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images(KEY WEST, Fla.) -- Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad was pulled from the water Tuesday morning ending her historic Cuba-to-Florida swim.

Nyad was attempting to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.  Her 63rd birthday is Wednesday.

Support crews pulled Nyad out of the water as they gave a phone interview to ABC's Good Morning America.

"We pulled her out of the water," Steve Munatones told ABC's Robin Roberts.  "The dangers were so great that we couldn't risk anyone's life, including her own."

Munatones was the official observer of the swim and the editor in chief of the Daily News of Open Water Swimming.

It was Nyad's fourth attempt to complete the swim.

Support crews monitoring Nyad told GMA that Nyad had severe sun burn, a strained bicep muscle and could barely walk.  Nyad and her crew are on their way to Florida's Oceanside Marina in Stock Island, Key West, so she can receive medical care for non life-threatening injuries.

Nyad's lips and tongue had become increasingly swollen overnight, puffing up because of salt water.  Members of her support crew of 63, which included multiple boats, had slathered her face and full-body wetsuit with black-tinted lanolin to keep the jellyfish and the cold at bay.

Team members said she had been struck at least four times by jellyfish during her voyage.  Jellyfish stings cut short her attempt to make the crossing last year.  

This was Nyad's third attempt to complete the swim in less than a year.  Nyad was not allowed to touch or be touched by any of the support crews or vessels.

Nyad began the arduous journey late Saturday night.  At a pace of 50 strokes a minute, the journey was expected to take 60 hours.  A squall with winds of 14 knots hit the flotilla Sunday and stayed "nearly stationary over" Nyad, forcing her to move northwest in order to try to find a way out of the storm.

She ended her last attempt in September 2011 after more than 40 hours, 67 nautical miles of swimming, and two Portuguese man o' war stings.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug202012

Swimmer Hits Storm on Swim from Cuba to Florida

File photo. (ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)(MIAMI) -- As Diana Nyad, 62, continued her attempt to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, "all hell broke loose" Sunday evening, according to her team's blog.

A little after 8 p.m. ET Sunday, a squall with winds of 14 knots hit the flotilla and stayed "nearly stationary over" Nyad, forcing her to move northwest in order to try to find a way out of the storm.

"Big thunderstorm came out of nowhere last night, but good news is there were no signs of jellyfish," Nyad's team tweeted this morning.

Despite a bodysuit designed to give her protection from jellyfish, Nyad has already been stung at least four times as she attempts to complete the 103-mile swim from Havana to the Florida Keys.

After a stormy night, Nyad's team blogged this morning that conditions are spectacular.

"Seas are calm and Diana is swimming strong at 50 strokes per minute and has swum 33.81 statute miles," Angie Sollinger, part of Nyad's media team, wrote. "There have been no jellyfish sightings our experts report. Beautiful out!"

Nyad jumped into the water late Saturday night. At a pace of 50 strokes a minute, the journey should take about 60 hours. If she succeeds, her team says, she will finish on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It is Nyad's third attempt to complete the swim in less than a year. If she finishes on Wednesday, it will be her 63rd birthday.

Nyad ended her last attempt in September 2011 after more than 40 hours, 67 nautical miles of swimming, and two Portuguese Man-of-War stings.

"The medical team said I should not go another two nights in the water and risk additional likely Man-of-War stings which could have a long term cumulative effect on my body. But for each of us, isn't life about determining your own finish line? This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter what it is, and that dream continues," Nyad called out to her flotilla of four escort boats from the water, according to her website at the time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug132012

Swimmer Dies During New York-New Jersey Ironman Competition

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- An autopsy is being performed on a 43-year-old man who died Saturday during the swimming portion of the first Ironman U.S. Championship triathlon in New York and New Jersey, which drew 2,500 competitors.

The unidentified man was in the midst of swimming the 2.4-mile first leg of the competition across the Hudson River when he experienced "distress."

After the man was pulled from the water, emergency workers performed CPR, to no avail.

World Triathlon Corp., which owns Ironman, said in a statement, "We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of an athlete at today’s Ironman U.S. Championship."

An autopsy is expected to reveal the exact cause of death.

Following the swim, the participants biked for 112 miles and then ran a marathon.  Saturday's winner on the men's side was American Jordan Rapp, who finished in eight hours, 11 minutes, 17 seconds, while Mary Beth Ellis of Delaware was the women's champ in nine hours, seven minutes, 46 seconds.

Deaths have been on the rise in Ironman competitions in recent years.  Two people died last year while swimming in the Nautica New York City Triathlon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug042012

Michael Phelps Wins Gold in Final Olympic Event of His Career

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages(LONDON) -- Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in history, so it was only fitting that the U.S. swimmer finished his final race in the course of three Olympic games with a gold medal performance.

Phelps, 27, swam the butterfly leg of the men's 4x100-meter relay, closing the gap between the United States and leader Japan. Nathan Adrian brought the victory home in the anchor leg of the race.

Japan took the silver medal in the relay, while Australia claimed the bronze.

Phelps, who made his Olympic debut in Sydney in 2004, exited the pool in London one final time, sharing a group hug with his teammates.

As he steps onto the medal podium for the last time, the swimmer has said he will not race in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Phelps has 18 career Olympic gold medals, two silver and two bronze, making him the most decorated Olympian in history with 22 medals.

He won gold Friday in his last individual race, beating his teammate Ryan Lochte in the 200-meter individual medley.

U.S. swimmers dominated in London, winning a total of 30 medals.

Shortly before Phelps' final swim, Olympic darling Missy Franklin and Team USA won gold in the women's 4x100-meter relay.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul052012

Lifeguard Fired After Rescue Might Be Reinstated

George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Thinkstock(HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.) -- The Hallandale Beach, Fla., lifeguard who was fired after saving a man outside his coverage zone may get his job back, said the private contractor that employed him.

But lifeguard Tomas Lopez, 21, told ABC News that he would not go back to work, even if he could.

"Now that [the firing] is public, they want to fix it. That's shady to me," Lopez said. "If I never said anything, they never would have acted."

Lopez said he had only been working as a lifeguard for four months at Hallandale Beach prior to being fired. He drove about 24 miles from his home in Davie, Fla., to Hallandale Beach, and worked nearly five days a week almost every week since he was hired, he said.

This is the second rescue Lopez performed as a lifeguard.

Jeff Ellis, the president of Jeff Ellis Management, told ABC News he would be conducting a full investigation into the firing of Lopez, who attempted to save a drowning man who was 1,500 feet away from the area of the public beach that the contractor patrols. Lifeguards had strict instructions not to venture outside the patrol zone.

Six other Hallandale lifeguards left the job after they told supervisors who work for the contractor that they too would have rescued the man.

Lopez said that no one from Jeff Ellis Management has contacted him yet regarding the investigation.

"There was someone who was fired before me for saying he wouldn't obey the rule," said Lopez, of Jeff Ellis Management's policy of only patrolling zones it's paid to cover. "Now that they're in trouble, they want to fix it."

Ellis, speaking from Houston, said that if he thinks the company acted in error, he may offer to reinstate Lopez, should he decide to come back. He said he would extend an invitation to any of the lifeguards who resigned to return to work, adding that they were not fired.

"This event caught me by surprise just as much as it did everyone else," said Ellis. "We're reviewing everything that has occurred, and we will either concur with that or we will override what happened based on what we find out."

Ellis said that he received conflicting accounts of what occurred on Monday afternoon when Lopez left his chair to save a man down the beach who appeared to be drowning.

"If he left his chair and we had a beach full of people and they were left unprotected, that would be one thing," he said. "If he left his beach and another guard immediately took over and covered so that the beach was protected, that would be an entirely different thing."

Ellis said he was made aware of the incident on Tuesday afternoon. He was not in the Fort Lauderdale area at the time.

He said he plans to return to Fort Lauderdale on Friday to speak with the people who quit as a result of Lopez' firing, as well as Lopez himself.

"Once we get all of [the information], we can make an assessment to determine whether or not we acted appropriately," Ellis said.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun182012

Dangerous Rip Currents Claim Lives at Florida Beaches

David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An outbreak of rip currents at beaches in Florida has claimed several lives and endangered dozens more in recent days, prompting the National Weather Service to extend its public warnings to beachgoers.

Over this past weekend, two people drowned and more than 70 had to be rescued from rip currents in a single Florida county on the Atlantic coast, officials there told ABC News.

A 14-year-old boy went missing Sunday after getting caught in a rip current while swimming with friends at New Smyrna Beach, Fla. His body was found on shore Monday morning. Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Tammy Marris told ABC News that the teens were swimming at an unguarded beach, over 300 yards away from the nearest lifeguard.

The same day the boy went missing, a 66-year-old man died after getting caught in a rip current just off another beach in Volusia. He was pulled in by lifeguards but fell unconscious during the rescue process and did not recover, Marris said. Authorities have not released the identities of either victim.

The deaths follow another pair of fatal incidents that took place on Florida's opposite coast along the Gulf of Mexico the previous weekend.

There, 42-year-old Sonia Westmoreland died June 9 after she was caught in a rip current while trying to rescue her daughter and her daughter's two friends. The girls were saved by their father but Westmoreland was "blue around the mouth and non-responsive" when officers arrived, according to a police report obtained by ABC News. She died several days later.

Also on June 9, a 23-year-old Mississippi man drowned while swimming at an unguarded beach in Pensacola, Fla., according to the Pensacola News Journal.

Though the weekend is over, the threat from rip currents is not, according to the National Weather Service, which said there is a high rip current risk until 8 p.m. tonight in Volusia County. Other Atlantic beaches including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach also faced a high risk until Monday afternoon.

Rip currents are strong gushes of water that flow through a low point in a sandbar often away from beaches. The channeled force of the current can drag swimmers away from the shore at a rate of up to eight miles an hour.

"People are being pulled away from shore -- in a sense like a treadmill -- they are not able to get back in and, in most cases, due to their physical conditioning, or distance from the shore, or their swimming ability, the rip current takes a lot of out of them, and which then leads to potential fatalities," Gerry Falconer, a lieutenant with Miami Beach Ocean Rescue and president of the southeastern region of the United States Lifesaving Association, told ABC News in a 2005 20/20 special.

According to USLA statistics, which are self-reported by participating agencies, most drowning deaths blamed on rip currents occur at unguarded beaches. Last year the association counted 16 deaths due to rip currents at unguarded beaches and three at beaches where lifeguards were present.

"The most basic and important thing is to swim in front of a life guard tower, no matter what the conditions are," Marris said.

Falconer told ABC News that the frequency of drowning because of rip tides reveals a lack of awareness about the hazard.

"If people were out on the beach and the word 'shark' was used, they'd clear the water without a doubt, but to hear the word rip current, a lot of times, it has little effect…and it is just as deadly," he said.

The 2005 20/20 investigation highlighted the problem of drownings along the unguarded beaches of Florida's Panhandle.

Eight people drowned in one day in 2003 -- known as Black Sunday -- including retired CNN correspondent Larry LaMotte of Atlanta, Ga., and Ken Brindley of Conway, Ark., who were vacationing with their families. LaMotte had gone in the water to rescue his son who was caught in a rip current and got swept up himself. Brindley, seeing LaMotte in distress, went in to help but could not make it out.

LaMotte's wife Sandee told ABC News that the families had been completely unaware of the danger.

"Here we are, two families, two husbands, two fathers leaving behind two sets of children all because we didn't realize that were in danger playing here at the water's shore," said LaMotte.

How to Escape a Rip Current

Lifeguards insist that the safest option for inexperienced ocean swimmers is to swim at a beach with lifeguards. For beachgoers who find themselves caught in a rip current, they offer these potentially life-saving tips:

  • Remain calm.
  • Don't try to swim against the current.
  • Try to swimming parallel to the shoreline to get out of the current.
  • When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current, towards the shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the current, float or calmly tread water.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug302011

Has Irene Polluted Shoreline Beaches?

ABC News(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ordered people back to the beach now that Hurricane Irene has blown through the state, although his own environmental agency is still testing waters for sewage, bacteria and debris churned up by the storm.

"Get the hell back on the beach," the notoriously blustery governor tweeted Monday as Irene faded away.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection issued a warning on its website Monday that raw sewage was spilling from a lake into the ocean near Asbury Park, just three blocks south of where Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno held a press conference encouraging visitors to make one last trip to the state's beaches for Labor Day weekend.

"We're open for business," Guadgno said.

Larry Ragonese, spokesperson for the DEP, said the agency had begun testing all of the beaches up and down the coast for water quality and expected to have the results posted by the end of the week on njbeaches.org.

"Obviously you have tremendous runoff of stormwater," Ragonese said. "And everything that is on land and sea kind of meet. So we're looking for any kind of bacteria, anything unusual. We're also looking for debris, from docks or boats. You don't want a life vest popping through the water."

Ragonese said it was likely that stormwater from Irene could have overwhelmed sewer systems and caused overflows, and that the department would be monitoring the water closely.

State environmental officials are testing beaches all along the Irene's path from North Carolina to New York as Labor Day weekend approaches.

Until the test results come in, beaches and the ocean will remain open, Ragonese said.

"It's up to each town along the coast. They're the ones as far as safety that would determine that," Ragonese said.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jul032011

Massachusetts Pool Death: Lifeguard Said She Was On a Break

File photo. (JupiterImages/Photos.com)(FALL RIVER, Mass.) -- A nine-year-old boy immediately told lifeguards at a Fall River, Mass., pool that a woman had gone underwater and not come up, but nothing was done and it was more than two days before her body was found.

According to the boy's mother, one of the lifeguards said she was on her break.

Marie Joseph, 36 went to the 12-foot-deep Vietnam Veterans Swimming Pool with a group of people on June 26. Her body was not discovered at the bottom of the public swimming pool in Fall River until the night of June 28.

On Monday, children swam in the pool unaware that her body was at the bottom.

According to law enforcement, Joseph slid down the pool's water slide with a neighbor's nine-year-old son, went under the water and did not surface.

Police said the boy notified two lifeguards separately immediately after the incident, around 2 p.m. Sunday, but no action was taken. Investigators are looking at surveillance video.

Autopsy results released from the Bristol County District Attorney's office Saturday say that Joseph accidentally drowned.

The boy's mother, Danyelle Hunt, 30, said in an interview Friday that her son keeps saying he wishes he were bigger so he could have saved the woman, according to the Boston Globe.

"He's sad because he saw the last moments of Marie's life, and when he tried to do something, nobody listened,'' Hunt said.

Hunt said her son went down a slide at the pool in front of Joseph, and Joseph grazed him on the head as she splashed down from the slide, according to the Boston Globe. Joseph attempted to apologize, but couldn't because she started sinking, according to the boy. He tried to grab her, but Joseph had already sunk to the bottom of the pool.

The boy immediately went to a lifeguard, who told him she was on break, Hunt said. He went to another lifeguard, who told him that they were going to do a pool check "in a minute.''

Although the pool was open to the public, Fall River Mayor William Flanagan said its permit had expired Dec. 31. Two health inspectors visited the pool Monday, Flanagan said, and one of them returned Tuesday and reported that the water was cloudy.

Flanagan has placed two inspectors on administrative leave, and the staff at the pool were suspended.

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