Gretchen Wahle, who completed her fourth season of Justin-Siena swimming this spring, was recently selected to the USA Down Syndrome National Swimming Team and will compete in the 2022 Down Syndrome International Swimming Organization World Championship in Albufeira, Portugal.
The Napa resident will be accompanied on the trip by Justin-Siena head coach Monica Linn.
“Inclusion for Gretchen with Justin-Siena swimming meant serving as one of our team captains in her final year,” Linn said. “She can brag about her long history of swimming the 100-yard butterfly every meet her entire high school career and providing depth to our roster and relays. Gretchen is waiting to hear back from a handful of schools before she makes her ultimate decision about where she will attend college.”
As a “T21 Swim Warrior,” the term USA Down Syndrome Swimming uses to describe swimmers with Down Syndrome, Wahle is mirroring the USADSS motto of "Rise When Challenged. Thrive When Included."
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She qualified for the world meet with the times she posted at a competitive meet on the last day of the inaugural USA Down Syndrome Swimming National Training Camp, held Feb. 22-27 in Orlando, Fla.
During the camp, she spent three hours a day in the pool at Rosen Aquatic Center and attended weightlifting, yoga and nutrition sessions. There were pool sessions for both competitive and artistic (synchronized) swimmers. Wahle participated in the competitive sessions.
“Camp was awesome,” she said. “It was hard work, but I had fun and learned a lot from the coaches. My favorite part was the actual swim meet and protein smoothie classes.”
The goal of the camp was to provide swimmers with Down syndrome the opportunity to train under experienced coaches to improve their technique and prepare to compete at the local, national and international level.
“While many of our swimmers with Down syndrome train and compete on a regular basis in their hometowns alongside their typically developing peers on high school, club or other teams,” U.S. head coach Colin Vidas said, “the national training camp provides them with a unique opportunity to train and compete with and learn from other athletes with Down syndrome.”
Wahle said she swam in five events at the qualifying meet.
“My favorite event is the 50 fly,” she said, “because I enjoy butterfly and I do well at it when I compete.”
After the camp, the coaching staff reviewed the qualifying times of each swimmer and selected the 2022 USA Down Syndrome Swimming Team.
The USA Down Syndrome National Swimming Team finished in the top 10 at the 2018 World Championship, and in the top 3 at the 2019 Open European Championship.
USA Down Syndrome Swimming, Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to building partnerships and raising expectations for swimmers with Down syndrome. It connects swimmers with Down syndrome to opportunities for personal growth as they journey toward inclusion in local, national or international competition.