Hannah Aspden of North Carolina takes gold in second Paralympic appearance
American Paralympic Swimming
Hannah Aspden’s coach at Queens University in Charlotte, NC, gives her swimmers plenty of life lessons and mottos in catchy phrases. “Embrace the chaos” is one of them. This means that life is inherently messy and unpredictable, and it’s best to just be open to uncertainty which can often lead to unexpected joys and triumphs.
Aspden’s favorite of all sayings, however, is “Control what you can control.” It’s something she’s repeated many times over the past year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, dropping the 2020 college swimming championship and then derailing her hopes for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. then made to stay at her home in Raleigh to train and learn remotely rather than returning to her college team for her junior year.
And that helped her in her preparation for those delayed Tokyo Paralympics, which are now underway.
“It’s something that I definitely keep with me and remember because there is so much that is out of our control and so much that we kind of have to ride with,” said Aspden. Live in the south. “And so, focusing on what we can to do.”
This is advice that, in fact, has served him well all his life.
Born with a congenital hip disarticulation and no left leg, Aspden began swimming at the age of 4. She was natural. She started competitive swimming at age 8 and made her first national team at age 13.
Having one leg means his arms are all the more powerful, both because they use them to navigate the world on crutches and because they are the primary propelling force in the water.
Aspden specializes in backstroke and was recruited by coach Jeff Dugdale to be part of the Queens squad, which has won five consecutive national titles in Division II.
“I’m lucky to have an opportunity that not many para-athletes have, was to be part of a varsity team, to swim in varsity competitions and to be really supported by everyone there,” Aspden said. “So I’m really grateful for that. “
But swimming on her varsity team is also something that has helped her and her coach, Dugdale, learn and appreciate all the ways she is different from her teammates – all the ways that help her thrive. at the Paralympic Games.
“I absolutely wanted to come into Queens and be treated the same,” she said. “I wanted – maybe too much – to prove to them what I could do and go in there and go after and be like everyone else.”
And Dugdale saw how motivated she is, how mentally strong she is, and how she worked as hard as her teammates and tried to ignore all the ways she was different.
“And she wasn’t going to ask for less than to be like everyone else,” Dugdale said. “But the point is, she uses her crutches every day, and her crutches are her weight room.”
This means that she doesn’t need to be pushed that hard to gain strength in the weight room when she is constantly working those muscles. outside the weight room, every day.
“I think I got caught, I don’t think so, I know I was caught in the excitement of having someone pressured into doing so well that it hurt, ”Dugdale said. “Sometimes for me I had to learn to be vulnerable, to say that I was wrong. But it was very important for me to recognize what makes her great. “
“I have to treat her the same by treating her differently.”
They learned together and Aspden thrived and improved. In 2016, Aspden was one of the youngest swimmers on the US Paralympic team. She returned from Rio with two bronze medals – one for the 100-meter backstroke and another for the 100-meter medley relay – and the honor of being the youngest to win a medal at these Paralympics.
Now at 21, Aspden is somewhat of a veteran of the team, at least as far as experience goes. She won those two bronze medals and a National Division II title with Queens. At the Tokyo Paralympic Games, her schedule included appearances in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke – which she won at the US Trials – and the 200 IM, where she placed second. Just before leaving for Tokyo, she told us about her hopes for the games.
“I’m just really excited and always grateful to have the chance to represent Team USA again on the world stage and especially now we are really trying to move the Paralympic movement forward and promote inclusion and sport and our hashtag is now #ShowTheWorld, ”Aspden said. “So we are all trying to show the world what we can do”
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Earlier this week, she won gold in the 100-meter backstroke. We would say Olympic gold is a prime example that the sky is the limit. Well done, Hannah!