At a time when the eyes of the whole world are watching the Olympics in China, Queenie Nichols, Oswego County BOCES SETRC (Special Education Training and Resource Centers) Professional Development Specialist, has her eyes on China as well. Queenie will be a Team Leader and Assistant Coach for the U.S. Paralympics Swim Team in Beijing, China for the 2008 Paralympics. The 38 member U.S. swim team consists of 20 males and 18 females, ranging in age from 15-58.
Nichols left for Colorado on August 20th where she and her team members will receive their uniforms and be briefed on Chinese culture. From there the team will fly to Japan for two weeks of training before going to Beijing for the Paralympic competitions.
The Paralympics will run from September 6th to 17th. Some of the athletic events will be televised live but results for each competition will be available online at the Paralympics website at www.paralympics.teamusa.org .
Paralympic athletes will use the same Olympic facilities and venues for their competitions with Nichols’ swimming team competing in the famed “Water Cube”.
The Paralympics features elite athletes who face some form of physical challenge. On the Swimming Team, for example, one swimmer is blind, another is a paraplegic, another an amputee, but no matter what the disability, all share the competitive spirit and determination to train hard and swim as fast as they can. Some members of the U.S. team hold the world record for their event. Above all else, Nichols emphasized the athletic abilities of the ParalympicÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â team members. “These are really elite athletes,” she said.
Nichols involvement in swimming came in a round about way. As a child she had always been afraid of the water and therefore, never learned to swim. As an adult she and her family lived on Oneida Lake, so she insisted that her two boys learn to swim. “I wanted to make sure one of them could save me,” she joked. She enrolled them in a swim program and later on a swim team.
While her children were members of the Liverpool Jets swim team, Nichols became friends with the coach for the group, Julie O’Neill. One day, Nichols confided to the coach that she was unable to swim and asked O’Neill to teach her. So at the age of 44, the coach put Nichols in the class with the 8-year-olds where she learned to swim and moved up in the classes from there. She earned her Lifeguard certification and Waterfront Safety Instructor certification as well as working later to help coach the swim team.
After O’Neill was recruited by the USOC, Nichols kept in touch and was later asked to be a competition manager and Team Leader for the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team.
The rest is history, but for Nichols it has only just begun.
She admits she has learned much through her experiences, conquering fears, and facing challenges, no matter the age, she now knows “you never know what you can do at what age.” She continues each day to be inspired by her team members. “They are just phenomenal athletes,” she said.