The most decorated Olympian of all time has a body that seems made for swimming. Michael Phelps' size 14 feet are like flippers. A stretch of his disproportionately long arms has probably secured at least one of his 18 gold medals. The swimmers representing the U.S., and Colorado, in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio don't have those advantages. Brickelle Bro of Castle Pines was born without feet. Sophia Herzog of Fairplay and Reilly Boyt of Fort Collins are 4 feet, and 4 feet 2 inches tall, respectively.
The swimmers spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as part of CPR News' coverage of Coloradans competing in Rio.
Reilly Boyt on how she got into swimming:
"I live in a family of very, very athletic people. And I'm the only one that's not really coordinated on land. And so my parents did the typical thing, like 'let's put her in youth group soccer,' and that just didn't go well. I played with chalk lines, I got stuck in the net, it just wasn't fun ... And my mom finally said, 'let's just throw her in the water and hope she doesn't drown' ... And I got to go to my first Paralympic trials when I was 12."
Sophia Herzog on her sense of humor around her dwarfism:
"You just kind of have to take it lightly. I mean I try to smile every day about drawfism, because it's gotten me this far. If I didn't have dwarfism I probably wouldn't be going to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games."
Reilly Boyt on the importance of mental toughness for Paralympic swimmers:
"Sophie and I really experience this: When we swim with able-bodied swimmers, there's a very big difference, and it's quite noticeable to see. And so that kind of mental toughness has to come into play, because when you're a kid and swimming against kids your own age and they're lapping you almost 10 times a practice, it starts to get a little hard."
Brickelle Bro on how it feels to have kids look up to her:
"All growing up I had this scrapbook that my mom had made of these other double amputees that were doing amazing things. And so for me, my proudest moments now are the fact that I can influence other young girls in the same way that I was. The happiest parts of these meets for me are talking to the young girls that are just getting into this, and showing them how much they really can do."
Reilly Boyt on her inspiration:
"When you walk into any Paralympic meet, you're automatically inspired, because the stories from everyone, no one's had the same challenges and no one's overcome the same things that you have. So it gives you perspective on life. Like we have teammates who are veterans, and we have teammates who have battled cancer, or were adopted from, you know, countries where their disability's not accepted ... Just being in the presence of other athletes who have overcome hurdles, it's inspiring."