Aspden advises: “Soak it all in” :: WRALSportsFan.com
Raleigh, North Carolina – Hannah Aspden has always felt comfortable in the water. From a young age she loved to imitate her brother, so when he started swimming, that’s exactly what she wanted to do. Now that passion for swimming takes the Raleigh native to the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
When Aspden was younger she tried soccer but knew it wasn’t the right fit.
âI really found my home in the water and found it to be more of a level playing field. It was a place where my disability hadn’t really affected me as much and defined me, âshe said. “I discovered that I was able to follow other kids and I really discovered my passion for swimming that way.”
Aspden was born with a leg and congenital hip disarticulation, but that didn’t slow her down. She was already swimming at 4 years old and at 8 years old she competed all year round.
Her impressive swimming career includes two bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She also won silver in the 4×100 medley relay while representing the United States at the 2018 Pan-Pacific Para-swimming Championship and won two gold and two silver medals at the world championships in 2015 and 2017.
Now, as her chance to swim in Tokyo draws near, she is aiming for gold for red, white and blue.
But this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, no spectators will be allowed, meaning Aspden’s friends and family will not be able to attend. She is disappointed that no family can travel with her as her mother has had the biggest impact on her swimming career.
âShe’s always there for me through the ups and downs,â she said. “And so I would definitely say he’s someone I couldn’t have done all of this without.”
In March 2020, when COVID-19 changed everyone’s plans and forced swimming pools to close, Aspden and her mother took unconventional training.
âI was out of the water for a while. And then we found out that we had family friends who had a pool in their backyard, just like a small pool in their backyard. And so I ended up swimming just back and forth for a few months, âshe said. âIn fact, my little sister came with me and trained me. “
When games were rescheduled to this summer, she knew she needed to get back to a more regular training routine. She now swims for the Titans at the Triangle Aquatic Center for coach John Payne.
As a veteran of the US team, she is now embracing the role of mentor for novice swimmers.
âIt might sound clichÃ©, but really just to soak it up,â she said.
Aspden knows the importance of having veteran swimmers on the team. She was only 16 when she competed in Rio, making her the youngest person on the United States team to win a medal at the Olympics or Paralympics. This year, she will once again have the chance to win a medal in at least four separate swimming events – the 100m backstroke, 100m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, 200m individual medley.
Aspden has no plans to slow down and plans to qualify for the Paralympics again in 2024 and 2028.
âPart of what we’re really trying to do is just show the world what disabled athletes and people with disabilities can do,â she said. “It’s always an honor and a great opportunity to hopefully be out there and show people what we can do with what we have.”