Watry striving for 2020 Olympic debut

Danny Ekstrand

Being able to work towards the goal of becoming a better athlete and improving your times in swimming takes training and the determination to show up to the grueling practices and have the willingness to give all that your body has to offer the sport.

This is hard enough while being in top physical shape, try missing most of a leg. Thomas Watry a 5th grader at Oak Park Elementary School does just this. He lost his leg due to amputation because he was born with a shot femur and tibia in his leg.

Thomas began swimming about a year and a half ago and has developed into quite the young athlete, swimming freestyle and fly for a private swim club that races other clubs from around the metro.

“Normally Thomas is like every other kid on the swim team, he competes against other kids in his age group all over the metro in other clubs. Hes up against what they call able body kids,” said Thomas’ mother Gina Watry.

Thomas’ swimming and determination to push himself has helped him progress onto bigger things than just the local swim club.

“We’re very fortunate here in Minnesota because Tom Franky who has been a U.S. head coach to the paralympic several different times for team USA saw Thomas swim at an event last year and talked to his coach. He said Thomas had the personality and the makings to go somewhere with his swimming,” said Gina.

Working his way to the top, Thomas went through classification based on his disability. They rank these from an S1 to an S10, S1 being the most disabled and S10 being the least.

“He classified as a S9 in his Fly, Back, Free and his medleys, for his breaststroke he classified as an S8,” Gina explained. “Knowing that information of where he falls it helps to know when his times here in Minnesota reach a qualification status in the CanAms.”

The CanAms solely by qualifications meet only hosts athletes from around the world. It is hosted one year in the U.S. and one year in Canada. Thomas qualified in three of his races. Through all this he keeps a childlike attitude and always has fun with his friends.

“One of my best memories was technically a pre-meet when I was on the minor team some of us boys pretending how many golds, silvers, and bronze that we were going to get. We didn’t know anything that was coming up and just having fun and thinking this is still kinda big. The next one was during one of my summer seasons where it was a long course meet and I ended up getting in a swim off with a kid who got the same time that I did,” Thomas said. “It was still a lot of fun even though I lost, with everyone yelling to get up and swim fast.”

The memories made in and out of the pool are something that people do not easily forget. Swimming, full of ups and downs, Thomas handles them in stride making the most out of each of his events.

“The Paralympic event I really liked it when, well it  was a bad and a good thing, I put on time for my 50 breast and I wasn’t happy about that. So, then I didn’t want to do my 100 fly which I thought that I was going to suck that up as well, but then I went out there and took off 12 seconds and I was like keee.. I didn’t know that to say because I was confused, I was like wee.. ahhh.. ahh,” said Thomas.

After Thomas’ classification he was told by one of his coaches that for how he looks right now he is on track for the summer games for 2020 in Tokyo. Despite all of this Thomas is just like every other 5th grade boy, running on the playground, climbing trees, scaring his mother half to death and always poking and prodding her to let him get the new video game that all the other kids have.