Feature by Sarah Eckersley
HARTFORD, Connecticut, January 21. EAST Catholic High School Senior Kristin Duquette is not your average athlete. Diagnosed with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) at the age of nine, Duquette faces challenges on a daily basis. But despite her physical limitations, she is determined to reach her goals in the world of swimming.
Duquette began swimming competitively at the age of six, but stopped nearly a year after she was diagnosed with FSHD.
"My swim coaches thought I was lazy because I was progressively getting slower," said Duquette.
FSHD is the progressive weakness of facial, shoulder and upper arm/lower leg muscles. Duquette's shoulders are dislocated due to weakness, which severely affects her ability to lift, reach, and hold things. In order for her legs to not give out, she uses a walker for short distances and a wheelchair for longer distances. She even wears special shoes so that she can walk without pain.
During her sophomore year of high school, Duquette decided that she wanted to start swimming again. She set a yearly goal to make it onto her high school team. Because Duquette's muscles are constantly changing, she had to reteach herself to swim. She started in a 10-yard pool at a local gym and joined her first swim team in the summer of 2007.
Duquette's goals are to make it onto the U.S. Paralympics National Team and to compete in the 2012 Paralympics.
"I look up to a lot of people – from Paralympians and Olympians to anyone who proves that you can achieve your dreams," said Duquette.
Some of her role models include Lance Armstrong, winner of seven Tour de France titles, and Natalie Coughlin, winner of six medals in Beijing. Both athletes overcame adversity to become successful in their sport.
"Everyone goes through some hard times but it's a matter of moving on and succeeding," said Duquette.
However, there is more to Duquette then her passion for swimming alone. She also enjoys surfing, horseback riding, and ocean swims. She recently completed a half Ironman swim in October that was sponsored by the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
In the fall, Duquette will be a freshman at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts – where she will swim. She is considering anatomy, neurology and communications as possible majors.
Duquette is an inspiration for many athletes – with or without physical challenges. She proves day-in and day-out that anything is possible. Sometimes it's not about being the best; it's about doing your best that really counts.
"Honestly, if you want something bad enough, you're gonna do it," said Duquette. "Because anything you want to achieve requires courage if you want to make your dreams a reality. Just keep a positive attitude and believe in yourself."