Nelya Schasfoort, 12, makes waves at the 2015 Parapan Ams in Toronto, as the youngest US competitor.
Age did not stop this fierce swimmer when it came time to show the world that she could swim with the best. Even with a broken swim suit and being the youngest swimmer, she swam fast. With all odds against her, Schasfoort ended up finishing with Silver in the 50 fly, made emerging time standards for Team USA and made the National Team USA B standards.
The Parapan Ams is a multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities and features 1,608 athletes from 28 countries competing in 15 sports. Schasfoort competed in the 50 fly, 100 free, 50 free, 100 back and the 200 Individual Medley (IM) events.
Schasfoort, from Avon Lake, Ohio was adopted from the Ukraine at the age of four. She was born with arthrogryposis, a developmental disability which limits the use of the arms. Schasfoort started swimming at ten years old as a form of therapy and found she loved being in the water.
As a result, she began to swim competitively and has trained in swimming and track and field camps at SPIRE Institute over the past few years.
“This is my fourth year here at SPIRE, I also do swim meets and for the last three summers I’ve been coming down to train during the week,” said Schasfoort.
Schasfoort not only workouts in the pool but also trains with Trevor Conner, SPIRE’s Mental Conditioning Coach. As a result of the mental skills training she has received, Schasfoort blocks out all distractions and focuses solely on the task ahead of her.
“When I was at mental skills two years ago, they taught me how to keep focus and now I have strategies that I use. I think about what’s going to be right about my stroke and that stroke,” said Schasfoort.
Schasfoort has also been training with Diana Munz, Olympic Gold Medalist, while here at SPIRE. Schasfoort has three coaches helping her in all areas, “I like the coaches the best. I have three coaches right now. One coach will tell me something one way and the other will tell me the same thing just in a different way,” said Schasfoort. She expressed how important this aspect is to her as an athlete and how it helps her to continually improve her swimming technique.
When asked about where she hopes to go after competing in the Parapan Ams, Schasfoort said, “This is like trials for trials. If I get good times here then I’ll be able to go to trials for Rio.”
With this kind of work ethic at such a young age, it’s hard not to see a bright future in swimming for Schasfoort.