If you meet Madeleine Babcock, it won’t take long to figure out that she loves to swim. It also won’t take very long to see that this young teenager’s will and determination will allow her to accomplish anything she puts her mind to doing. Her story is an inspiration for anyone with a disability.
Madeleine was born with glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve, and aniridia, a disorder that affects the iris. As a result, she is legally blind in her left eye and only has light perception in her right eye. But this has not stopped Madeleine from her love of being in water. She started swimming lessons at 18-months-old and hasn’t looked back. When she turned six, she decided that she wanted to compete as a swimmer and joined the Belmont Aquatic Team.
No stranger to hard work – maintaining an “A” average in school while keeping up with orientation and mobility (O&M) and braille lessons, etc. – Madeleine swims about two hours a day. She practices with her Belmont team five times a week and once a week with the swim team at Adaptive Sports New England, an organization that increases participation in athletics by young people and adults with visual or mobility impairments. She has had to employ some unconventional techniques to pursue her love of swimming. She breathes on every fourth stroke instead of every three. In races, one of her parents will use a golf ball retriever with a tennis ball attached to the end to tap her on the head as she approaches the end of a lane. This signals that two strokes remain before the wall.
Last June, Madeleine competed in the U.S. Paralympic Trials in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although she fell short of making the U.S. Paralympic team that competed in the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio, Brazil, Madeleine has already set her sights on the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. According to her parents Chris and Jill, Madeleine believes she can do anything she puts her mind to. She claims, “You don’t have any limits…and you’re your only limit.”
In addition to her school work and athletic prowess, Madeleine works with a MCB Rehabilitation Teacher (RT) to advance her cooking and organization skills.
To read more inspiring consumer stories, check out MCB’s 2016 Annual Report.
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