Detroit Swimmer Qualifies for World Deaf Swim Championships

AnQuniece-Wheeler-Butterfly
Photo Courtesy: Mighty Cause, AnQuniece Wheeler

By Sarah Berman, Swimming World College Intern.

For nine years, AnQuniece Wheeler, 19, has been working toward her goal of qualifying for the World Deaf Swim Championships. She has been selected to represent Team USA this summer but needs help raising $5,500 to make her dreams come true. If she can raise the travel funds for Brazil, Wheeler will not only be accomplishing her goal but also will make history. In an interview with Fox 2 Detroit, she says: “I am going to be the first black female to swim on a deaf national swim team.”

AnQuniece-Wheeler-with-coaches

Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @DCDPR

The World Deaf Swim Championships occur every two to four years and typically alternates with the Deaflympics. The games in Brazil this summer will be the fifth time this event will be held. Selection for the meet is conducted though minimum time standards, the athlete having a hearing loss of 55 dB or greater in the better ear, submission of character reference letters to USA Deaf Swimming and approval by the USA Deaf Swimming Selection committee.

This dream began many years ago at a local pool. At eight years old, Wheeler began swimming at the Detroit Recreation Center and never looked back. While competing and earning top honors in the Detroit Public School League for Martin Luther King High School, she became the first girl from a Detroit public school to qualify for the state championships in over two decades. Luck was not on her side, as she was unable to swim due to a broken leg. Although she missed out on the state meet, Wheeler won a city championship title with a broken leg.

Wheeler-with-award

Photo Courtesy: CollegeSwimming

Wheeler swam one season for Chowan University and will attend Gallaudet University this fall, which is an NCAA Division III institution for hearing impaired students. Gallaudet University is the first school for the deaf and hard of hearing in the world and is the only institution of higher education where all programs and services are designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. The school is officially bilingual, with American Sign Language and written English being used for classroom instruction. 

Wheeler learned about the World Deaf Swim Championships in 2014 from one of her coaches. She is more determined than ever to represent Team USA in Brazil. When interviewed by Fox 2 Detroit, Wheeler comments: “Now I have a purpose because [the meet] is here. It is sitting right in front of me, and I have to move and make it happen.” She says that she is nervous to compete but knows that she has to go.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan hand-delivered a certificate to Wheeler at the pool for her achievement, saying, “Congratulations on all you’re doing.”  

AnQuniece-Wheeler-with-mayor

Photo Courtesy: Facebook, Mayor Mike Wheeler

In the same interview with Fox 2 Detroit, Wheeler explained her determination to fund-raise for the meet: “I will do any type of sponsor. If you want me to stand outside, cook food, sell lemonade for you or just hold a shirt, I am willing to do it. Any dollar amount or anything is worth it. I am really grateful for everything.”

The whole Detroit community is rallying behind Wheeler and supporting her accomplishment. In a press release from the Deputy Parks & Recreation Department Director, J.J. Velez said,

There is so much talent and perseverance in the young people of Detroit, and there is no better example than AnQuniece. We are so proud that she is a product of the city’s recreation department swim program and that she is the kind of compassionate person who is making it a point to give back to the program that she came out of. She is an inspiration to all of us.”

Although Wheeler has faced so much adversity throughout her life, she tells others, “Don’t let anyone stop you from following your dreams.”

~Donations can be made to Wheeler on her MightyCause page.~

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Kate Walter

    Such an inspirational story! Thank you for sharing.