The team is coached by Peggy Ewald (Tiffin, Ohio/Ada, Ohio), and she is assisted by Andrew Barranco (Baltimore, Md.). The team includes nine women and five men for a total of 14 athletes. Of the 14, all but three are under the age of 21.
"We bring a very young but talented group of swimmers to this meet," Ewald said. "All of these swimmers are very talented, and the experience they will gain from this competition will go a long way in their futures and it is a big step towards competing in Beijing next summer."
Of the 14 swimmers, four competed at the Paralympics in Athens in 2004. Those swimmers include Cody Bureau (Latrobe, Pa./Colorado Springs, Colo.), Casey Johnson (Fountain Valley, Calif./Cypress, Calif.), Michael Prout (West Springfield, Mass.), and Carrie Willoughby (Birmingham, Ala./Colorado Springs, Colo.). Beth Kolbe (Tiffin, Ohio) qualified for the 2004 Paralympics in Athens but due to academic commitments at Harvard, she was unable to go. Kolbe is looking forward to competing at the ParaPan Am Games with dreams of being in Beijing in just over a year. She was chosen by her fellow teammates to serve as the captain of the women's team at these games.
"I am really excited about being here and I am very honored to serve as the captain for the women's team," Kolbe said. "We have a young team here, so it is a great learning experience for all of us. I am happy to take on the leadership role for the team. This will be a good gauge for all of us to see where we are as a team and individuals as we look forward to Beijing next year."
It is extra special for Kolbe and Ewald as they are getting to experience this first Parapan Am Games together as coach and athlete. Ewald coached Kolbe throughout high school, and to experience this event together is icing on the cake for both individuals.
"It is great to experience this with all my teammates and especially my coach, Coach Ewald, who coached me in high school," Kolbe said. "I am so glad she is getting this opportunity, and to experience this together is great."
Ewald expressed similar feelings to experience this international competition with one of her athletes. "I am honored to be able to coach this young and talented team, and it is great to experience this with Beth." Ewald said. "Not being able to go to Athens in 2004 was a tough decision for her but one she hasn't regretted. I feel very fortunate to have a chance to coach her, as well as the others at this prestigious meet."
On the men's side, Prout was chosen by his fellow swimmers as the men's captain. Prout, who is currently attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has competed in several international competitions, and in 2006 at the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships in Durban, South Africa, he set two Pan American records in the 200m freestyle and the 200m IM. He is happy to be taking on his new role as captain.
"I just try to take care of my teammates like I did before, but now I have a title (captain) to go along with it," Prout said. "It is an honor to be selected by my other teammates, and it is always cool that your team believes in you."
Prout and the others are pleased with how their practices have been going since arriving in Brazil and are looking forward to the competition. "From what I have seen everyone on the team seems ready to go," said Prout of the upcoming competition that begins on Monday, Aug. 13. I think even though we are young, we will have a good meet."
Monday's preliminary competition will feature the following athletes beginning at 10 a.m. at the Aquatic Center Maria Lenk: Tom Miazga (Milwaukee, Wis./Cedarburg, Wis.), Sarah Hunt (Fort Collins, Colo.), Amanda Everlove (Valencia, Calif./Wichita, Kan.), Megan Smith (Sierra Nevada, Calif./Eugene, Ore.), Susan Beth Scott (Cape Girardeau, Mo.), Miranda Uhl (Gainesville, Fla./Alachua, Fla.) and Alex Dionne (Panama City, Panama/Mequon, Wis.).