By Michael Collins
MAR DEL PLATA, ARGENTINA. ELEVEN members of the USA Disabled Swim Team competed in the XVII Swimming International Tournament in Pool and Open Seas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, from December 14-17, 2001. The meet served as a test meet for the International Paralympic Committee World Championships to be held in Mar del Plata in December 2002. Countries competing in
addition to Team USA included Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Hong Kong-China, the Netherlands, South Africa, Taiwan, and
Athletes selected to compete for Team USA included Melanie Benn (Los Angeles, CA), Kendra Berner (Lake Bluff, IL), Stephanie Brooks (Alpharetta, GA), Jennifer Butcher (Portland, OR), Katy Chandler (Irvine, CA), Jennifer Johnson (San Diego, CA), Angel Langner (Birmingham, AL), Curtis Lovejoy (Atlanta, GA), Travis Mohr (Baltimore, MD), Mikhaila Rutherford (Alameda, CA), and Brandi van Anne (Ft. Collins, CO).
Team staff included Team Leader – Julie O'Neill, Head Coach – Shawn Kornoelje, Assistant Coaches – Chris Black, Bryan Butcher and Michael Collins, Physician – Brian Davis, and Personal Care Attendant – Holly Kelly.
Team USA brought home a total of 39 medals (13 Gold, 21 Silver, 5 Bronze) and saw three American Records broken during competition. Jennifer Johnson (S1 Classification) broke her own American marks in the 50m Freestyle (2:08.26) and 50m Backstroke (2:06.42) and Mikhaila Rutherford (SB8 Classification) set a new American standard in the 100m Breaststroke (1:27.20).
Gold medal performances included Jennifer Butcher (S13) in the women's 100m Backstroke, Kendra Berner (S10) in the women's 50m and 100m Freestyle events, Curtis Lovejoy (S2) in the men's 100m Freestyle, Angel Langner (S6) in the women's 50m Butterfly, Brandi VanAnne (SB5) in the women's 100m Breaststroke, Stephanie Brooks (S6) in the women's 100m and 400m Freestyle, and Travis Mohr (SB6) in the men's 100m Breaststroke.
Three Team USA swimmers competed in the Open Water competition. Kendra Berner and Travis Mohr both completed the 5K and finished 2nd overall in the
women's and men's divisions respectively. Stephanie Brooks competed in the 800m event with an impressive finish in just under 13 minutes.
Head Coach Shawn Kornoelje commented following the meet, "We had an amazing trip,and learned so much. The ideals and goals that we all have are coming
together. We all need to work for a great Paralympic Team in 2004, and keep the National Team concept growing. I believe that we all have something to give to this endeavor, and the team showed me down there that we are very capable of working toward that goal."
Note: The meet almost didn't happen as the public workers were on strike. This meant the pool was closed for about a week before the meet was to start. A special petition by the meet organizers finally got the pool open only one day before the meet. While the pool was closed, the filters and heaters were turned off, so the meet started with cool and cloudy water. Luckily the team was on the way back to the US before Argentina's economic woes brought the country almost to a complete standstill.