Gretchen Wahle, who completed her fourth season swimming Justin-Siena this spring, was recently selected to the United States National Swim Team for Down Syndrome and will compete in the International Swimming Organization World Championships. for Down Syndrome 2022 in Albufeira, Portugal.
The Napa resident will be accompanied on the trip by Justin-Siena’s head coach, Monica Linn.
“Gretchen’s inclusion with Justin-Siena in swimming meant being one of our team captains in her senior year,” Linn said. “She has a long history of swimming the 100-yard butterfly in every meet in her entire high school career and bringing depth to our roster and relays. Gretchen is awaiting word from a handful of schools before making her final decision on where she will go to college.
As a “T21 Swim Warrior,” the USA Down Syndrome Swimming term used to describe swimmers with Down syndrome, Wahle reflects the USADSS motto “Rise When Challenged. Thrive When Include.”
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She qualified for world competition with the times she posted in competitive competition on the last day of the first national Down syndrome swimming training camp in the United States, held from February 22-27 in Orlando, Florida.
During camp, she spent three hours a day in the pool at the Rosen Aquatic Center and attended weightlifting, yoga and nutrition sessions. There were pool sessions for competitive and artistic (synchronized) swimmers. Wahle participated in the competition sessions.
“Camp was awesome,” she said. “It was hard work, but I had fun and learned a lot from the coaches. My favorite part was the swimming competition and the protein smoothie classes.
The goal of the camp was to provide swimmers with Down syndrome the opportunity to train with experienced coaches to improve their technique and prepare to compete at local, national and international levels.
“While many of our swimmers with Down syndrome train and compete regularly in their hometowns alongside their typically developing peers in high school, club or other teams,” said U.S. head coach Colin Vidas, “The national training camp provides them with a unique opportunity to train, compete and learn from other athletes with Down syndrome.
Wahle said she swam in five events during the qualifying meet.
“My favorite event is the 50 butterfly,” she said, “because I love butterfly and I do well when I compete.”
After the camp, the coaching staff reviewed each swimmer’s qualifying times and selected the 2022 USA Swim Team with Down Syndrome.
The USA Down Syndrome National Swim Team finished in the top 10 at the 2018 World Championships and top 3 at the 2019 European Open Championships.
USA Down Syndrome Swimming, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to building partnerships and raising expectations for swimmers with Down Syndrome. It connects swimmers with Down syndrome to opportunities for personal growth as they progress towards inclusion in local, national or international competitions.