Gladstone High School's Adin Williams made big splash in the swimming competition at the July 3-4 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation Youth World Games in Athlone, Ireland.
Williams, competing for the first time on an international stage, won a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle, a silver medal in the 50 butterfly, and placed among the top six in three other events in the global showcase for physically-impaired athletes ages 23 and younger.
"It was better than I imagined," said Williams, a 4-foot-5 dwarf and a senior-to-be who has been swimming competitively since his freshman year of high school. "Not to say the odds of me getting a medal were incredibly low or anything, but I was only going to Ireland expecting to compete and maybe achieve some personal bests, not expecting to medal."
Williams was one of 29 athletes selected from across the country and the only athlete from the Pacific Northwest to compete in the IWAS Youth World Games, featuring competitions in both swimming and track and field.
Williams knew in November that he was eligible for the swimming competition and he trained an hour a day, four days a week at the Oregon City Swim Pool and North Clackamas Aquatic Park in preparation for the trip to Ireland.
Former Pacific University swimmer Megan Conway, who worked previously with Adaptive Sports Northwest, served as the US Swim Team coach.
The team departed from the States on June 29 and flew to Dublin, then rode a charter bus to Athlone — near the southern shore of Lough Ree in Ireland. With a population of more than 21,000, it is the second most populated town in the Midlands Region and is considered the commercial capital of the Midlands.
"Ireland was nice," Williams said. "It actually looked a lot like Oregon. The weather was similar — not too hot."
All the athletes were housed in two hotels in what was similar to an Olympic Village set-up with meals served in banquet rooms where Williams got to interact with athletes from all the different countries.
Each competitor is licensed by the international Paralympic committee, and then after testing and review, they're assigned a classification, ranging from 1 to 10. A classification of 1 is the most impaired and a 10 is the least impaired, perhaps an athlete with mild cerebral palsy or a hip joint that doesn't function properly.
Most athletes with dwarfism are classed as either 6 of 7. Williams is a Class 6 swimmer.
The swimming competition was scored using the British Paralympic Point System — a mathematical formula that calculates time, classification, and how close each athletes time was in relation to the world record time in each respective class, which then produces a score from 0 to 1,000 which is used to determine the final order of finish.
Williams swam in the finals of the 100 freestyle and the 100 butterfly on the first day of competition. He placed sixth in the 100 free with a time of 1:23.65, and then was disqualified near the finish of the 100 fly when his right arm didn't swing out of the water simultaneously with his left arm.
On the second day, Williams won a gold medal in the 50 freestyle, won a silver medal in the 50 butterfly, placed fifth in the 200 freestyle, and was sixth in the 50 backstroke.
In the 50 free, Williams posted a time 34.93 seconds, finishing more than four seconds ahead of the nearest Class 6 competitor from Thailand. There were four Class 10 swimmers with faster times and one Class 9 swimmer also had a faster time, but Williams emerged as the overall winner, having come the closest in his respective classification to breaking the world record.
"I was racing against a lot of people who were 6-foot tall and they were people in my age group, which were the people I was really competing against," Williams said. "But with the scoring system that they used, I ended up beating them, which was definitely unexpected.
"Actually, at first, my family was imformed of the results posted for the 50 free and they were like, 'Oh, you got a silver medal.' But apparently they read the results wrong and I actually got a gold, so it was an even bigger surprise than I thought at first."
Williams earned his silver in the 50 butterfly with a time of 40.75, even though a Class 10 swimmer from Poland swam 31.90 and a Class 8 swimmer from Thailand swam 40.43.
He also swam a 52.15 in the 50 backstroke and a 3:09.53 in the 200 freestyle.
"I thought it went great," Williams said. "I didn't really set any goals other than to do my best, knowing how big a competition it was. I'm only a couple years into swimming and I don't have the opportunity to train nearly as much as most of the other swimmers do, so I was looking to just go out there and do my best and try to get some personal records.
"I felt like I did my best. The competition was pretty decent, actually. I definitely had some tough competitors, but the way this meet worked was different from how most work back home."
Williams said if he had it to do over again, he might have cut back to four or five events.
"If I could, I would probably look over the schedule of events to see which events were on what days and at what time," he said. "That way, I could pick events based on the schedule and not swim nearly as many back-to-back events, so I could get more rest between races and have more energy."
Williams said the next regional paralympic swim competition is in September, and then there is a national meet in December in Charlotte, North Carolina, that he would like to attend.
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