By Swimming World High School Intern Carmen Triola
What's next for Ian Silverman? This seems to be a recurring question for the 16-year-old Paralympic athlete who recently secured two S10 Classification Paralympic American Records, in the 800 and 1500 meter freestyle events, at the 2013 CeraVe Invitational.
"It feels great," said Silverman after the completion of his races at CeraVe. "It's a real honor."
It's hard to say just how far Silverman will go with all of the success he's had this past year. In the summer of 2012, he was picked for the US Paralympic team in London, where he won gold and set a Paralympic American record in the 400 freestyle. Now, in his hometown of Baltimore, MD, he is still training with his eye on the Rio 2016 Games.
"I just try to set goals every day and raise the bar for the sport," he said.
Silverman also said he definitely wants to try to make the regular Olympic trial cut, go to the Paralympic World Championships, and reclaim his 400 freestyle Paralympic title. For now, though, he remains extremely gratified by his experiences in London.
"The Paralympics had a profound effect on me. It changed how I view meets, how I prepare, and what I focus on."
What Silverman really loved, though, was the chance to meet people from all around the world: from Australia to China and even New Zealand.
"They tell you you're going to meet life-long friends there," he explained. "It sounds clich?, but it's true."
When he returned to Baltimore after the Paralympics, Silverman said it was the greatest feeling to have brought home gold and to have represented his country abroad, saying, "It's all you could ask for."
The Paralympian even arrived to a parade in his honor. Similar levels of support have come from his peers at McDonogh School, a K-12 institution he currently attends as a high school junior. Apart from the accolades, Silverman says his life has stayed mostly the same.
"I still train like I used to," he said. "It's the same old me."
Silverman continues to swim for his club team, North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC), as well as swimming high school season for McDonogh. He says he appreciates the greater team-oriented mindset in high school training, but is happy to be a part of both swim teams. He especially credits his success to coach Erik Posegay, of North Baltimore, who helped him train for the Paralympics.
"He's a great distance coach," said Silverman. "I've had a lot of success under him -- it's a great fit."
Training hasn't been easy, though. Silverman has had to push through his cerebral palsy, which is the reason he qualified to participate in the Paralympic Games. Silverman suffers from mild cerebral palsy in his lower extremities. Before settling on swimming, Silverman first tried land sports, but his legs would always get sore. His condition was actually what lead him to try swimming; the sport has been reputed to have wonderful therapeutic benefits for many patients with similar ailments. The water's buoyancy helps ease stress caused by gravity and can build coordination. Silverman uses swimming to help build strength in his legs.
Another priority for Silverman is connecting with kids who also have cerebral palsy. He wants to spread a positive message for kids who may not know about the Paralympic opportunity he chanced upon. Silverman was discovered by US Paralympic team coach Brian Loeffler through Silverman's sister, who taught at Silverman's old school, Rodgers Forge Elementary. Silverman had known nothing about the team prior to meeting Loeffler.
Before departing for the London Paralympic Games, Silverman was faced with an additional roadblock. In July 2012, he received news that his good friend, Alec Cosgarea, had been killed in a car accident. Today, Silverman remembers Cosgarea as a vocal team leader who was always there to help him at both McDonogh and North Baltimore. Luckily, Silverman got plenty of support from friends, family, and teammates to help him push through the tough time.
Whatever the roadblock, even a disability, Silverman encourages kids to stay strong.
"Keep going! It's never too late. Find something you're good at; just have faith."