Swimming Toward London

by Kathy Wechsler on November 1, 2008 - 4:14pm

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 6

Kristin Duquette of East Hartford, Conn., who has facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), is determined to swim in the 2012 Paralympics in London.

The 17-year-old high school senior trains with the Connecticut Paralympic coach at the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain. She trains in the pool five to six days a week and does land exercises every other day to enhance her performance in the water. At least once a week she joins several swimmers from around the state for intense training.

“Training for the Paralypics is the coolest thing ever, because that’s what I wanted since I was 7,” she says.

To qualify for the United States Paralympic team in the S4 class (for those with little-to-no leg function and limited arm movement in the water), Duquette needs to swim the 50-meter backstroke in 1 minute 7 seconds. In just a year of training, her time has improved from 1:58 to 1:27.

“I’m fully capable of cutting 20 seconds,” she says.

Year-round training and a do-or-die attitude led Duquette to set the first American record for her class’ 200-meter backstroke at a tri-state Paralympic competition in May in New Jersey.

When Duquette competed in the National Junior Disability Championships at Rutgers University two months later, she broke three Junior National records (50-meter freestyle and 50- and 100-meter backstroke). Her times qualified her to be world ranked in the 50-meter backstroke.

Duquette with Ryan Levinson

This summer, a San Diego vacation with her family gave Duquette an opportunity to learn to surf with her mentor, Ryan Levinson, a triathlon athlete with FSHD.

“Ryan is a wealth of knowledge and experience,” Duquette says. “He inspires me, and he definitely keeps me motivated.” (Levinson was featured in a Quest profile in September-October 2004).

Coming up in March 2009, Duquette will compete in the National Can-Am Paralympic Meet in Oregon.

“Never give up, and always know that achieving your childhood dreams is possible,” she says. For more information, sit www.kristinduquette.com.

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