Queens University swimmer Hannah Aspden wins gold at Tokyo Paralympic Games | DFA 90.7
Hannah Aspden, a rising senior at Queens University in Charlotte, won gold in the women’s S9 100-meter backstroke on Monday at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Aspden’s time of 1: 09.22 set a new US record and clinched his first career Paralympic gold. She won two bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Aspden’s time broke her own record of 1: 09.48, set on June 17 in Minneapolis.
The podium was completed by Soto Nuria Marques of Spain with silver and Sophie Pascoe of New Zealand with bronze.
âI’m really, really happy, excited,â Aspden said after the race. âIt didn’t seem real, and it still isn’t. It was such a fun race. I don’t know what I was expecting but I just wanted to go and give her everything I had and that’s what I did. It’s been a long, long journey for a lot of people who come here and so just being here, being able to run, is an amazing feeling.
Aspden was born with a congenital hip disarticulation and no left leg. She started swimming at 4, competing at 8 and made her first national team at 13.
Ahead of these Tokyo Games, Aspden said she plans to use her experience from Rio 2016 to help her teammates thrive in one of the toughest sporting competitions in the world. At just 16 in Rio de Janeiro, she was the youngest swimmer on the U.S. team to ever win a medal on the Olympic or Paralympic teams.
His strategy may have worked. In addition to Aspden’s gold medal, the swimmers of the U.S. team on Monday won six more medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
It’s a busy week for Aspden. She also competes in the 100-meter freestyle, the 200-meter individual medley and the 4×100-meter medley relay.
“I feel less nervous this time knowing that I’ve been there before,” Aspden said in an interview in early August. âI hope to go there with less nerves and more confidence and have a lot more fun with my team.
âEverything is going to be different,â she added. âNot just because of the year we had, but even going to Rio in 2016, people who attended the 2012 Games in London said those two games were completely different.
âIt’s pretty good that the Olympics are a few weeks ahead of us and we get to see how it all plays out, especially with all the new restrictions this time around. The most stressful part will probably be getting into the country with all the documentation that we need and the restrictions and everything. “
Although the United States Paralympic Swim Team was only allowed one personal care assistant for a list of 34 athletes, Aspden felt confident in her team’s staff to handle the obstacles. The staff includes professionals in coaching, sports medicine and sports psychology. She is also confident in her teammates’ ability to cope with adversity and is ready to help them fight their way through a stimulating sporting event in the world’s largest city.
âIn life, everyone is faced with something,â she said. “So I think sport in general, but especially with Paralympic sport, is a great way to show people that they overcome obstacles and do what they love in the best possible way.”
Aspden graduated in 2018 from Leesville Road High School in Raleigh and is now studying multimedia storytelling in Queens.
At the Paralympics, veterans and rookies learn from each other, Aspden said. âWe can teach young athletes to soak it all in, be part of the excitement, experience and just have fun with it,â she said.
His first Paralympic experience in Rio was overwhelming, but his mindset changed for Tokyo.
âYou train for it every day, dream about it for years, and then you get to it and you don’t want it to be that stressful memory,â she said. âYou want to leave with great memories and have had a good time with your team. And swim your heart out.
Aspden said she feels responsible for helping newbies after stepping in their shoes five years ago.
âI want to try to be a mentor to these young athletes, just like the people who were there for me in my first games, showing me the ropes and everything,â she said. “Be flexible, go with the flow, because a lot is going to happen and a lot is going to change.” Aspden plans to tell recruits, âControl what you can control. “
Aspen is used to learning to control only what she can control. When she returned home to Raleigh in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, she continued to train in a friend’s pool. His sister came in as a coach, giving a whole new meaning to family ties. Over the past year, Aspden has trained with the TAC Titans with access to a 50-meter pool, elite coaches and other athletes training for the Games.
âIt’s important to remember why you started playing this sport, swimming or doing this thing in the first place,â Aspden said. “When did you find your passion for this?” What brought you here? It’s not about results, it’s not about the money in the end, it’s about doing what you love.
Grace Wesoly of Greensboro, North Carolina, is a student at the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University Charlotte, which provides the news service in support of local community news.