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Little Rock swimmer hopes to win a gold medal in the Paris Paralympics in 2024



Little Rock, Arkansas – Every athlete’s dream is to represent their nation in international competition. There will be many well-known Arkansasians competing in Paris this summer, but for one Little Rock swimmer, believing goes well beyond simply witnessing.

Under the surface, Olivia Chambers’s life is simpler.

“I love being in the water and I love getting up and racing,” she said.

Currently a swimmer for the University of Northern Iowa, the 21-year-old Little Rock native will soon be a member of Team USA.

“I’ve always dreamed of this moment since I started the sport and you see all the swimmers on TV wearing the flag cap with their name underneath it and I’ve always wanted that,” Olivia said.

Olivia had always had her sights set on the Olympics, but at the age of sixteen, her dreams of taking home the gold were all but dashed.

“For the first year and a half the doctors told me I would get my vision back, so I just kept holding out hope,” she explained.

Olivia was given even harsher news after being diagnosed with multiple mitochondrial gene deletion syndrome.

“But then the doctors told me my vision would not come back so that was kind of a curveball,” she said.

Despite being discouraged, Olivia didn’t give up and went back to her favorite place to be—the pool.

“I kept swimming because it was the one thing that was constant in my life,” she added.

Olivia has improved to become one of the top swimmers in the nation with the assistance of her coach, Ben Colin.

“[We] get some pace clocks that we can put at the end of her lane, we make sure she swims in a lane that she can see the pace clock,” Coach Colin described. “We give her sets all verbally where typically we might write the setup on a whiteboard.”

Olivia was chosen as one of just 33 Americans to compete in the 2024 Paralympic Games, and she is traveling from familiar pools all the way to Paris with the support of her coach, teammates, and family.

“They were there the day it started when my world flipped upside down. They helped me stay positive and helped me talk through my feelings and helped me every step of the way,” Olivia said. “They’ve helped me learn how to live as a visually impaired person and it’s something I could have never done alone.”

Her sights are firmly fixed on the gold as she prepares to bid America and Arkansas farewell.

“I want to get there and have the best time possible. Have a great time with my teammates and just take it all in,” she added.

The 17th edition of the Summer Paralympic Games is scheduled to run from August 28 through September 8.


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