Although Australian swimmer Rowan Crothers is participating in his first Paralympics Games, he already has fond memories of the quadrennial event. In fact, he describes his greatest moment as witnessing fellow compatriot Peter Leek win gold in the 200m individual medley at the 2008 Paralympic Games. Just like Leek, Crothers suffers from the same debilitating disorder – cerebral palsy. Yet despite its challenges, that hasn’t done much to prevent him from flourishing in the pool.
Born 15 weeks prematurely, Crothers had to fight for his life from day one. At nine months old, his fragile condition led to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy as well as chronic lung disease, meaning his movement, balance, and posture would be permanently limited. But although he faces difficulties in the form of motor skills and coordination, he’s developed a strong connection to the sport of swimming.
Crothers found his passion in the water once he saw Peter Leek take 8 medals at Beijing 2008. Before then, he had been familiar with the pool, however, he swam merely as a part of his therapy. Once he discovered disabled athletes could compete on the same level as other athletes, the race was on. And since that point, he’s proved a force to be reckoned with.
At 14 years old, Crothers won silver in the 400m freestyle at the 2012 Australian Open Swimming Championships. Over the course of the next couple years, his results would only improve. Strong showings at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships (gold in men’s 34pt 4x100m freestyle relay) and 2014 Australian Open Swimming Championships (3 golds by way of world records in the S9 classification 100m (twice) and 200m freestyle competitions) would see Crothers haul in 6 more medals. After a 2015 season spent focusing on year 12 in school, Crothers successfully qualified to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
In addition to competing with cerebral palsy, Crothers also serves as a youth ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy League in Queensland, Australia. As someone who was inspired by an athlete with cerebral palsy, Crothers finds motivation in letting others with his condition, or another disability, know that they too can follow his path. His Skill in the pool and ability to serve as a Role Model have further led him to receive the Griffith University and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Sporting Excellence Scholarship.
Now, as he pursues a bachelor’s degree in public relations and communications at Griffith University and trains at Griffith Sports College in Brisbane, Australia, Crothers can make sure he channels all his energy toward the classroom and the pool without worry of work on the side.
Rio 2016 comes to a close. Feels surreal, thinking back to my first trip with @jesse.aungles 5 years ago, when we would dream of being here. No medals for me this week, but PBs in the 50m and 100m free & all finals so I can't complain! Keen to get home and see the family and friends who have supported me through my journey from the very beginning. #WeBelieve
In earning the Sporting Excellence Scholarship, Crothers will have the time and resources necessary to take the next step in his career. And if all goes to plan, he just might replicate the success of his Paralympian idol. Such a feat would be a tremendous accomplishment. But it would also allow him to be for others what Peter Leek was to him – a Role Model who showed that a disability doesn’t define who you are and what you can achieve.
Written by Athlete CRUSH Staff
Posted 28 September 2016