“It’s given me so much and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Sensational performances by young swimmers throughout the 2014 season enter the IPC’s Top 50 Moments at No. 5.
At the 2014 IPC Swimming European Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, over 70 medals were won by swimmers aged 18 or under.
Over at the Pan-Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Pasadena, USA, 18-year-old American Ian Silverman broke the 13-year-old men’s 400m freestyle S10 world record with 4:03.57. He shaved just under a second off of the previous mark held by Canada’s Philip Gagnon, set when Silverman was just five-years-old.
“From training I got a good perspective of where I was and that I did have the ability to break it,” Silverman, who is already the Paralympic and world champion in the event, said. “It was some pretty intense training leading up to that race because I definitely had in my mind that I wanted to break it.”
In Eindhoven Chantalle Zijderveld, just 13, emerged as the latest Dutch swimming prodigy after taking gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB9 in a new European record time of 1:17.39.
Great Britain’s Andrew Mullen, 18, also came of age, winning four European golds in the men’s S5 events.
But it was Ukrainian Yevheniy Bohodayko, 20, who highlighted the Euros, becoming the most decorated athlete with seven gold and two silver medals. He beat his 13-time world champion teammate Dmytro Vynohradets to the accolade.
For Silverman, now 19, being a young swimmer and finding a happy medium between training and study can be difficult.
“It definitely is a challenge sometimes to put in enough time and develop a system and a way of doing things that allows me to maximise both and get the most out of them,” he said.
“Every year, things change, times change and it’s an adjustment. This will be my first year in college but it really is just trying to find a perfect balance and what works best for you.”
Having started swimming at the age of seven and quickly becoming obsessed, Silverman is all too aware how tough it can be when you first start out but urged budding athletes to stick with it.
“It can be frustrating if you don’t get the results you want straight away,” he said. “You don’t always want to do the hard work at the start but that’s what you have to do if you want to be good at it.
“I know the process of swimming and being a para-swimmer can be long and arduous, but as long as you are patient with it and put in your best work possible and don’t short change it then it will be worth it, and you will have a lot of fun and meet a lot of people. It will be a great experience.”
Silverman, Zijderveld, Mullen, Bohodayko and many other youngsters like them already putting in increasingly good performances for their national teams, are now looking towards the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Great Britain, from 13-19 July.
That will act as a qualifier for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Whilst the constant cycle of training, competition and study could prove to be too much for some people, Silverman is happy to be kept busy and constantly challenged.
“I can’t think of one down side,” he said. “It’s given me so much and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
To find out more, visit the IPC’s Top 50 Moments page.