PHOENIX, Arizona, June 17. WATCHING a 3-year-old jump into a pool and splash around the water is nothing new. But to see a child of that age swimming the length of a 50-meter pool twice is a rare sight to behold.
Bruce Wigo, the CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, met the White family at the Hall of Fame complex in Fort Lauderdale and captured video of 3-year-old Henry White jumping into the pool and swimming 50 meters unassisted. Wigo also talked to the boy's parents, Eric and Sylvia, about their desire to make the Whites “a swimming family.”
His father, Eric, said this video doesn't fully encapsulate how much his son enjoys the water. The parents have dozens of videos of Henry showing no fear as he climbs to the three-meter springboard and jumps off. The love of the sport was passed down from the mother to her children, the oldest of whom is 5-year-old Erica. Olivia, still a toddler, is likely to join her older siblings into the pool soon.
“Nurturing plays a big part, but it's also genetics,” Eric White told Swimming World of his children's affinity for the pool. “We started swimming as a family in March 2011, but before that when my wife would bathe the kids, she would tell them, 'kick, kick, kick' while they were in the bathtub. When they transitioned to the pool, it was nothing more than 'kick, kick, kick.'”
Discussion of Henry's ability to swim the length of the pool will be inevitably coupled with discussion of his skin color, and Eric White is fine with that. In an age where organizations such as USA Swimming and ISHOF are implementing programs to reduce drowning rates among minority children and bring more minorities into the sport, White knows his son could be viewed as an inspiration to other black children around the world.
“You can't ignore the history of the sport,” White said. “If my kids are fortunate to compete at high levels, I'd be proud of them as a parent, and if they can bring along kids that look like them, I'd be proud of that, too.”
Henry was recently a part of the Black Heritage Meet in Raleigh, S.C., where he was the youngest competitor and completed a 25-yard freestyle in 1:19.38. Obviously, times are not important at this point in Henry's swimming career, and Eric White says a love and familiarity with the water is what makes him happiest.
“First and foremost,” he says, “it's a life skill.”