This past summer, Jack Falejczyk, a junior living with blindness, went to North Carolina to participate in the Paralympic trials, competing to represent the United States in Rio De Janeiro.
Falejczyk is the first person from Elk Grove to qualify for the Olympic or Paralympic Swimming trials in twenty years. The last person to qualify was Lindsey Farella in 1996.
There are three major steps for the Paralympic games: a qualifying race for the trials, the trials themselves, and then the games. His qualifying races have taken place all across the country within the last two years.
The Paralympic Games themselves are similar to the Olympics in that the best athletes across the world gather in one city and compete for medals. Athletes of the same disability compete against each other, so Falejczyk competed against other blind athletes.
These trials lasted from June 30 through July 2. He arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, a few days earlier in the week so he could practice beforehand. The preliminary rounds for the various categories and divisions were in the morning while the finals were in the evening.
Falejczyk swam in a total of thirteen races, and he made it into the finals for the 50 Meter Freestyle, 100 Meter Breaststroke, 100 Meter Butterfly and the 400 Meter Freestyle. His greatest improvement was in his 400m Freestyle from 6:23 to 5:59, dropping a final total of 24 seconds. His “grand finale” was the 100m Backstroke, with a finishing time of 1:33, where he won a gold medal.
He said swimming in the Olympic pool felt like “pure adrenaline. This was it. This was my first Paralympic Trials. I was excited going through each race. The crowd fueled the fire because even though it wasn’t a gigantic crowd, it got pretty energetic!”
Although Falejczyk did not make the United States Paralympic team, he said the experience was “quite the accomplishment! I swam great races, met some new people and had so much fun, too!”