AVON — Tuesday’s mail delivery is what made everything feel real.
With more than a week left until the start of competition, two big boxes were delivered to the home of 12-year-old Breanna Sprenger.
Inside — T-shirts, polo shirts, jackets and swim caps all bearing the words “United States Paralympic Team” or simply a red, white and blue American flag and the young athlete’s last name.
The garb is the same attire gold medalists Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps donned in London last year. This time, Breanna will wear the clothes, which are the ultimate symbol that she is a part of the U.S. team and will head to the 2013 International Paralympic Committee World Championships in Montreal, Canada.
“She will be swimming for her country against Hungary, Ukraine, China and USA’s Kayla Wheeler,” said mom Carrie Sprenger. “We went into this knowing it was a long shot, but she’s going.”
The white polo shirt Breanna wore Tuesday night — the first time she has worn the signature gear — is still too big for her small frame. She tugged at the hem constantly.
Born with no legs and just one arm, Breanna is a pint-sized dynamo. But tailoring the small shirts to fit her even smaller body is not something her parents want her to worry about going into competition.
“We were convinced she would get scratched because there wouldn’t be enough swimmers in her class,” said dad John Sprenger. “S1s are the most severely disabled swimmers, so there aren’t a lot of swimmers at that level in her class. She’s going because she has improved her time enough to be an S2.”
Breanna will swim the 50-meter backstroke.
“I’m excited — yes — and nervous — very,” she said. “I just want to do my best — swim my best and beat my time.”
Breanna discovered years ago that she loved swimming and set out to compete at the top. She got her start on a swim team with all able-bodied swimmers at the French Creek YMCA in Avon — always coming in last, but never giving up on her dream of swimming on a Paralympic team. With hard work and determination, she has since gone to six IPC meets in a year and a half, being noticed more by IPC coaches.
She even turned up the training so she can better compete on an international level. This summer, the Sprengers have also added driving to Geneva to train in an Olympic-sized pool to their routine
“If you train in a 50-meter pool and then compete in a 50-meter pool, then it’s not a big deal,” Carrie Sprenger said. “People may think it’s cute or sweet that Breanna can swim, but she is an athlete. The U.S. Paralympics are parallel in every way to the Olympics, and Breanna is going to be an official representative of Team USA. That’s way more than just cute.”