Deb Gruen Swims the 100 Breaststroke
One of the Paralympic Swim Meet great highlights for me was the
saga of Deb Gruen. Deb is an S7 swimmer who is currently a Junior at Yale University,
and who came to train with me during a few weeks in the summer of 2008. She
lived with our family, and was a real joy to all four of us. While I enjoyed
destroying her repeatedly in Scrabble, I also came to appreciate her wonderful
sense of humor and her love for healthy food, even though I still eat plenty
of junk. Deb had realistic hopes of her Paralympic Games, knowing that it would
be difficult to earn a medal, but believing that she had the ability to do so.
When her first few races did not go as well as she had hoped, discouragment
set in, as well as a fair share of troubled confidence. When it was time for
her 4th race of the swimming competition, she was plenty nervous. The 100 meter
breaststroke is her specialty, as well as her favorite. She placed 5th in the
prelim competition, but felt that she could go a little faster. The pictures
below tell the story of what unfolded on that Thursday night at The Water Cube.
The image above shows me helping Deb with her start. Due to her
birth with Spina bifida, and the corrective surgery, Deb has had difficulty
using her legs and therefore she requires assistance on the starting blocks
in order to stand still. The white cap indicates that this was a preliminary
swim, since the team members wore white caps in the morning and black caps in
finals. Since I had to help Deb with the start, Doc Manning took the pictures,
and I have none from the finals session. In prelims, Deb raced well and swam
strongly, boosting her confidence, which had previously been sagging. I
In her finals race, Deb was in 5th place at the 50 meter turn.
However, she had gone that first length in her fastest split ever, and she came
back on the second 50 meters with hope. Deb moved from 5th to 4th at the 75,
and into 3rd at the 90 meter mark. I believe that if the race had been 100 meters,
Deb might have won. As it turned out, Deb earned a bronze medal and was elated.
In the words of her father, "she was the happiest bronze medal winner ever."
Above is Deb with her medal, and below she shares the moment
This final picture shows Deb with her mom, dad, and sister. It
was interesting to learn that her dad, Dr. Jeff Gruen, had given a guest lecture
at Peking University on the subject of Genetics. He is a professor at Yale.
This race of Deb Gruen, along with the gold medal swim of Anna
Eames in the 100 Butterfly, and Justin Zook's victory in the 100 Backstroke
are the most memorable and gratifying races in my 30 years of coaching. I am
so thankful for the opportunity to coach these athletes, and to share their
moments of success. It has truly be a privilege.
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