Cool in the pool: Northbrook swimmer headed to national paralympic-style competition
Northbrook's Ryan Eidelman has a simple, logical reason for why he enjoys swimming.
"Mostly," he said, "being in the water."
He's been in it a lot since he first took to the pool at about 3 years old.
Now 15, Eidelman trains with the Patriot Aquatic Club, a USA Swimming affiliate out of Stevenson High School. Just out of Field Middle School, he's in his final year of junior high competition before transitioning this fall into the high school group. Ryan plays water polo at Patriot Aquatic, too, already with the high schoolers.
He's got some main-event swims coming up: the Move United Junior Nationals presented by The Hartford, which runs July 17-23 in venues in Westminster and Thornton, Colorado.
In its 37th year, the Move United Junior Nationals is the largest and longest-standing sport championship event for young athletes with a physical disability, visual and/or intellectual impairment through the age of 22.
Since 1984 it's roamed around the country by design; in 2010 Move United was held in Deerfield and Lake Forest.
After achieving qualifying standards for the competition, this year Eidelman gets to visit Colorado. Move United swim events occur July 19-20 at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.
Eidelman was born 28 weeks premature, with a right arm that ends about four inches below the elbow, said his mother, Dina. He competes in the S9 disability swimming classification.
"For me, it's really not that different," Ryan said.
"Ryan tends to do all four strokes. He's pretty versatile in his swimming, so he does butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle," said Megan O'Sullivan, his coach at Patriot Aquatic.
His goals for the upcoming meet are modest.
"Probably dropping some times on the shorter strokes, especially the 50s. It's more about the times. I don't really care about the place," Eidelman said.
It's a refreshing take -- his emphasis is less on winning, more on just the joy of being with other swimmers and gauging improvement.
"I would say more having fun in the games," he said. "Just hanging out with friends, being in the water and going against them, talking about swimming and the times you got from it."
At the Patriot Aquatic Club Summer Blast Off on June 25, he set new personal records in two of his three events, improving by nearly a full minute in the 200-meter individual medley.
That came hot on the heels of the Great Lakes Games, sponsored by the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association. There, Eidelman swam the 200 freestyle, the 50 fly, 50 breast and 50 back, in yards that time.
O'Sullivan has been working with Eidelman for the past three years or so. She agreed that it's not really different from coaching anyone else.
"He does the same workout, the same drills, the same everything that all the other swimmers are doing. Definitely, he doesn't get any breaks," she said.
Eidelman doesn't feel that being born without a right hand significantly alters his training. He's still pulling with both arms, though he does place greater emphasize on generating power through the water with his legs.
Recent drills have included working on diving from the blocks and, depending on the stroke he's practicing, kicking eight times for each stroke. O'Sullivan works with him on things such as body position in the water and "kick integration."
"You would have to do everything the same as everyone else, you just have to do it in a different way. I'm not really bothered by it, but I know that I'm just a little slower than everyone else. But that doesn't really change how I work out in the pool," said Eidelman, who also participates in hapkido alongside adult practitioners who have no disability.
"To be honest, I think Ryan has come a long way since he's been here. He works pretty hard in practice," O'Sullivan said.
"I think the freestyle is one of his stronger strokes. He likes to sprint. We're trying to get him to do a little distance as he gets older, but definitely right now we're focusing a lot on the 100s for each stroke, and then possibly even a 200 individual medley is a good event for him."
She said his chances at success in Colorado are aided by swimming against opponents in similar classification.
It sounds, though, like Ryan Eidelman already has succeeded.
"I'm pretty happy that I got to the point where I wanted to be," he said.