YONKERS, N.Y. -- Devin Marrero is swimming toward Brazil and the fact that he has Cerebral Palsy just makes the journey a bit more challenging and satisfying for the Yonkers student/athlete.
Marrero, a Mercy College student who has been swimming since he was a young child and later as a Special Olympics competitor, will travel to Augusta, Ga., Saturday, Oct. 19 and Sunday, Oct. 20 to record his official times in the different swim strokes in hopes of and qualifying for the U.S. Paralympic Team and an eventual opportunity to compete in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil.
"I have been swimming since I was a little boy," the 18-year-old college sophomore said. "I did not swim competitively until joined the Special Olympics, and I loved it. I tried out for my high school swim team not thinking I was going to make it, but to my surprise I did."
Using the pool as a motivator and therapeutic field of dreams for physical challenges, Marrero continued competing until lack of funding closed his Saunders High School (Yonkers) swim program.
"Unfortunately, during my junior year of high school swimming was cut due to budget cuts," Marrero said. "I had not be in a pool in over two years until recently with the help of New York Sports Club in Dobbs Ferry. They are providing me their facility to train. Once I was granted access to the gym I found a swim coach Sarah Borell, who has volunteered her personal time, one day a week to prepare me for an upcoming classification that I am attending in Georgia."
Marrero's mother, Gina Cantelmo, said her son finds fulfillment in the water where he can compete at a high level.
"Devin first started swimming with the Special Olympics," Cantelmo said. "Devin always loved swimming, but I think it was being able to swim competitively against others that made him love the sport. When Devin is in the water it makes him feel whole."
Cantelmo said her son has matured and has shown determination, having cut several seconds off his swim times while practicing how to dive off the starting block.
"With (Devin) able to do that he will no longer have a disadvantage of starting in the pool while everyone else dives in," Cantelmo said. "Devin's dream is to be a paralympic swimmer. It is not going to be an easy task because he is a full time college student, but I have no doubt in my mind that no matter what he does in his life he will be great at and a great role model for others to look up to."
Marrero said swimming helps keep his legs loose and adds strength and endurance for his everyday activities.
"I also receive physical therapy two times a week which helps keep me fit," he said. "Swimming has kept me motivated because I set personal goals and know I must work hard to achieve them. And my family supported me both mentally and physically by signing me up for camps and pushing me forward to compete, which gave me the drive to do better."
And "doing better" means keeping the dream of competing in 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil alive and kicking with each stroke in the pool.