CINCINNATI, Ohio — Olympic and Paralympic athletes across the globe faced massive disappointment in 2020, when the pandemic postponed the Tokyo games. And while it may have stalled the dreams of many, it didn’t make them fade away.
“I won silver in London. I won Gold in Mexico City and Berlin, Germany,” said Lawrence Sapp.
Sapp is a world champion swimmer. Like most world class athletes, he's been honing his craft nearly his whole life.
“I’ve been started swimming since I was four, competing since I was 11 and 12,” he said.
But unlike most athletes, he hasn’t had a traditional path.
“My coach, to learn how to swim, like a doggy paddle,” said Sapp.
When Sapp was two years old, he was diagnosed with a developmental delay. That was later determined to be autism.
Now, he’s finishing his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati, but in all likelihood, his workload will get a lot heavier this summer. It’s almost a certainty he’s headed to Tokyo for the Paralympic games.
“It was coronavirus, got hit. We all had to go home, keep it safe to stay healthy. It’s really disappointing they moved the 2020 to 2021 for this year,” said Sapp.
But now Sapp is back in the pool, working hard as he aims to bring home gold in Tokyo.
“He always shows up ready to work hard and get better,” said one of his student coaches, Sheridan Ave.
His hard work shows. It’s something his university is proud of, proud to support him in and out of the pool.
“He’s an outstanding student. He’s a great addition to the university and has a passion and gift for swimming,” said Jan Goings, who runs the Transition and Access Program (TAP).
“We are a four-year college program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Goings.
Sapp is one of about 40 students enrolled in TAP.
He hopes to make his classmates proud when he competes in Tokyo.
“Just swim really hard, good break outs, and good starts,” said Sapp.
Goings has worked in this field for a long time.
“It has changed dramatically. The fact that universities have opened themselves to say, 'we’re here to educate all students.' So, all does mean all,” said Goings.
Institutions like the University of Cincinnati and competitions like the Paralympic games are making sure that all have a chance to show their best.
Sapp plans to show his.
“Just got to get on, be ready to race in a different country. I’ll be ready bring it on for Tokyo,” he said.