East Texas Swimmer Set To Represent U.S. - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6/12/07

East Texas Swimmer Set To Represent U.S.

15-year-old Alex Stafford of Tyler is enjoying a meteoric rise through the ranks of competitive swimming. She is set to represent the United States next month at an international event in Colorado Springs. Her success in the pool has inspired many, and not just because she is blind. In the pool, alex stafford is just like any other swimmer. The hard working freshman, in only her third year of competitive action, helped Robert E. Lee win the district title this year, while qualifying for regionals in the 100 fly and 500 free.

"She has reached above and beyond where we expected her to be at this point in her career," said Lee swimming coach Matt Franks, who also coaches Alex' club team. 

The beauty of it is, the fact that she is blind has nothing to do with her success.

"When I went into Lee, I was not expecting any slack," Stafford recalls.  "Coach (Franks) has treated me the same, and my teammates have treated me the same, pushing me the same way they treat any other teammate, and I like that."

"She's opened up everybody's eyes, just to see how mature a 14, 15 year-old can be," Franks said.  "She's got her goals. She's gone above and beyond just learning how to swim and learning how to swim competitively."

Her rise through the sport began last summer, when she represented North Texas in the Southern Zone swimming championships. In April, she was chosen to represent the United States in the upcoming International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) Youth and Student World Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

"It's an incredible, incredible feeling," Stafford said of her selection.  "It's an awesome opportunity. I'm hoping to represent us well.  It would be awesome to come back with a medal, but I'm not going in expecting that. My goals are to do my best, and to represent blind people in general and to show that we can do whatever anybody else can do, and we can do it just as well, if not sometimes a little better."

"The sky is the limit for her," Franks said.  "We've talked about the Paralympic Games in 2008 and 2012 and where we need to be and I think that this will be a great gauge for her."

Alex will be one of more than 300 athletes from 27 countries taking part in the multi-sport IBSA Youth and Student World Games in Colorado Springs July 12th through 16th.

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