One-armed swimmer qualifies for Tennessee high school state meet

Credit: Buda Mendes

Credit: Buda Mendes

A high school junior in Tennessee, born with half of his left arm, qualified for the state high school meet Friday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

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Ben Ramirez, 17, swam a time of 25.05 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle to land a spot in the Tennessee Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association state meet, the newspaper reported.

Beating swimmers with two arms is nothing new for Ramirez, who attends Bearden High School in Knoxville.

"I've never known any different," the 6-foot, 160-pound sprinter told the News Sentinel. "It's normal for me. I was born this way, so I don't know any different. I'm not envious (of swimmers with two arms). There's nothing I can do about it."

While he may not win a state title at the two-day meet in Nashville, Ramirez's long-term goal is to qualify for the U.S. team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, the newspaper reported. His personal best of 24.82 seconds in the 50 free is .08 seconds off the U.S. record for a swimmer with his level of disability, according to the News Sentinel.

“I started thinking seriously about the Paralympic Games this summer when I decided to focus on swimming year-round,” Ramirez told the newspaper. “That’s a big dream. That helps me to keep working.”

Ramirez was born in China and adopted when he was 3. He began swimming in the second grade when he was living with his parents in El Paso, Texas, and moved to east Tennessee when he was in the sixth grade.

"I started swimming in the second grade, but I was also playing tackle football," Ramirez told the News Sentinel. "The first two years (on the offensive and defensive lines) I was lost. By the third and fourth year, I wasn't bad."

Swimming, however, has remained Ramirez’s main focus. He overcame the lack of two fully functional arms by generating most of his power from his legs.

“I learned to kick harder and have better technique,” Ramirez told the newspaper. “I work my one arm harder. It’s all I know.

“I don’t get too worked up over things. I’ll swim against kids who will tell me, ‘You inspire me.’ Then I’ll go against kids who say some mean things because they don’t like getting beat by a guy with one arm.”

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