Stars and newcomers meet in Lewisville

Rebecca Meyers of The United States of America competes in the Women's 400m Freestyle S13 Final at the London 2019 World Para-swimming Championships (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)
Rebecca Meyers of The United States of America competes in the Women's 400m Freestyle S13 Final at the London 2019 World Para-swimming Championships (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Paralympic champions Jessica Long, McKenzie Coan and Rebecca Meyers lead home team as USA hosts season's second stop

The World Series 2021 travels to Lewisville, USA for the second leg of the tournament this week.

Around 116 athletes representing 20 nations and teams will head to the LISD Westside Aquatic Centre for the three-day event, which starts on Thursday (15 April).

The home team will be led by 13-time Paralympic champion Jessica Long and three-time Paralympic champion McKenzie Coan, as well as Paralympic and world champion Rebecca Meyers and world champion Lawrence Sapp.

For many athletes it will be their first international competition in more than a year. They were due to take part in the World Series in Indianapolis, USA, last year, before it was cancelled following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Protocols will be in place at the centre, which hosts the World Series for the first time, and there will be no spectators.

Heats and finals will be streamed live on the World Para Swimming website and Facebook page .

First-timers

The event will also be an historic one for Grenada, which makes its international Para swimming debut. Nye Cruickshank will be the first athlete from the Caribbean island to compete in the sport on the world’s stage. The S10 swimmer will race in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and individual medley.

Barbados and Paraguay are two nations making their World Series debut. Barbadian swimmer Antwahn Boyce-Vaughan is set to compete in three races while Paraguayan Rodrigo Hermosa, who competed at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games, will be in action in the men’s 50m freestyle S9.

USA Paralympic silver medallist Lizzie Smith said she was happy to race again in preparation for the postponed Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

“My last international competition was the World Series meet last February [2020] in Melbourne, and I feel a little naïve when I look back at that time."

"I left the meet feeling disappointed that I didn’t swim the times I was hoping for. Going into the Lewisville World Series, competing has a different meaning to me, I’m feeling very fortunate to get to do my craft and race again,” said the S9 swimmer.

“It also fills me with a ton of pride that I get to be at this meet racing for my slot to represent Team USA in the Tokyo Paralympics.

“The Paralympics is quite literally changing the world. Through sport we are changing how the world perceives people with disabilities. I’m honoured to be part of a movement that has given athletes a podium to be elite not despite our disabilities but with our disabilities.”

Australian Paralympic champion Timothy Disken (S9), Mexico’s world champion Arnulfo Castorena (S4), and Parapan American Games silver medallist Alejandra Aybar (S8) from the Dominican Republic are among the international swimmers.

YUI Maori will be the only athlete from Japan at the event. The S5 swimmer hopes to be part of the host nation’s team at the Games in Tokyo.

Refugee swimmer

Afghan-born Mohammad Abas Karimi will also compete as part of his bid to get into the Refugee Para Athletes Team for Tokyo.

He made history at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City when he became the first refugee to win a medal at a major Para swimming event – he won silver in the men’s 50m butterfly S5. In 2018, the swimmer also won gold at the World Series in Indianapolis.

Mexico will send the biggest team to the event, with 33 athletes, followed by USA with 30 and Australia 14. Among the other international visitors are Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.

Fourteen-time USA Paralympic champion Erin Popovich is now associate director of sports operations for US Para Swimming. She said the team had worked hard to make this year’s event in Lewisville “as positive as possible” after last year’s cancellation.

"We are so excited to welcome many of the world's best swimmers to Lewisville. It has been an incredible team effort, but we have worked hard to ensure a safe and competitive environment for the athletes by implementing COVID-19 protocols,” she said.

“When this event was cancelled due to the pandemic a year ago, we knew we wanted this year to be as positive an experience as possible for everyone involved, and I think we're well on our way to accomplishing that. We are looking forward to bringing the world of Para swimming together this week."

There are five stops in the World Series. The first was Sheffield, then Lewisville and Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy this week. Australia and Germany are next. During the World Series 2019 season more than 1,300 athletes from 84 countries took part.

The World Para Swimming Points System will be used at the World Series competitions. Athletes’ results will be calculated using a standardised points system. This will ensure that the overall World Para Swimming World Series Female and Male Winners will be the best performing athlete over the duration of the series.

By Mary Barber| For World Para Swimming | International Paralympic Committee