The echoes of the crowd cheering. The slap of splashing water. The shouts of his teammates’ support. A year ago, Victor Wright would have never imagined hearing any of these sounds, but today he dons a Vikings swim cap and is proud to swim for the West Orange high school team.
Victor Wright, 16, started swimming at the young age of 4. Since then he has enjoyed causal swimming in his backyard pool and at the local beach. He joined Special Olympics two years ago, but only started training and competing with his swim team this past year.
While Victor was competing in a Special Olympics Florida swimming event earlier this year, he and his family were approached by Coach Cindi Brasch, swimming coach for West Orange High School. After briefly talking about Victor’s swimming abilities, Coach Brasch invited him to the first day of practice at West Orange High School.
“The first day, was very difficult because Victor did not know the warm up drills, and only had one stroke. His endurance was very weak, but he made it through,” said Henry Wright, Victor’s father. “When later that week, Coach Brasch told us he was on the team we could not be happier, actually, we cried with joy.”
Earning a spot on his high school team has benefited Victor not only with social skills and inclusion but with his physical fitness as well. His teammates and coaches embraced him from day one and encourage him in the pool and at school. They treat him like anyone else on the team.
“At West Orange, we coach Victor the same way we coach every other athlete on the team. We have the same expectations for him as we do all of our athletes,” said Coach Brasch. “Having Victor on the West Orange Swim Team has helped everyone build better character, both athletically and individually. Our athletes have become more tolerant of one another, they jump in and are ready to help each other reach their highest potential! It has shown our athletes that they need to look at each other’s abilities, not the disabilities. Warrior Nation has really rallied around Victor. We are very proud of his accomplishments and proud that he is one of us.”
Victor was diagnosed on the autism spectrum over 10 years ago, along with ADHD. It was defined later as Asperger’s. Through his disabilities he continues to strive in the pool for excellence on his high school and Special Olympics team. Earlier this month, Victor competed in his first Special Olympics Florida State Swimming Championship and brought home a bronze medal.
“Our goal is to inspire other families like ours,” said Henry Wright. “We hope other families will reach out to us, so we can help, share, and dream about the endless possibilities for our children.”