Former gymnasts make splash in pool

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BY KAELI FRAHN (’15)

Colin and Connor McDermott ended their swimming and diving season better than could have ever hoped for, especially considering they were both new to their respective sports. After being competitive gymnasts for twelve and fourteen years, both had to end their gymnastics career due to back injuries and turned to the pool.

Connor’s story

Connor, a senior, developed a parse fracture in his L5 between his sophomore and junior year. He was in a brace for 4 months and at the end, unfortunately had to quit.

“We moved to Ohio to do gymnastics, so it was really difficult to give up,” said Connor. “Fortunately, I found diving and it was a great transition from gymnastics and I hope to compete in college.”

The transition from gymnast to diver was fairly easy according to Connor.

“Gymnastics and diving are two completely different sports, but the mechanics of each require extreme body control and awareness,” said Connor. “Had I never been a gymnast diving I never would have accomplished anything as a diver. I was more excited than nervous to start, but there are definitely some skills that make me nervous. I have picked up skills very quickly which has made it a very smooth transition.”

This year, Connor came in 3rd at districts, “which is pretty good for my first year!” he remarked.

Colin’s Story

Colin McDermott's gymnastics career was sidelined by a herniated disc. PHOTO COURTSEY OF COLIN MCDERMOTT
Colin McDermott’s gymnastics career was sidelined by a herniated disc. PHOTO COURTSEY OF COLIN MCDERMOTT

Colin, a junior, ended his gymnastics career after developing a herniated disk and seven bulging disks due to his rapid growth going into his sophomore year.

For Colin, the transition was more difficult. Remarkably, Colin couldn’t even swim a year ago.

“10 months ago I started an entry level swimming class at the Lancaster YMCA,” Colin said. “I didn’t know what freestyle was, I didn’t know what butterfly was, I didn’t know that there was even a difference between the strokes. I could barely keep my head above the water.”

Swimming was a whole new world for Colin

“My first meet was depressing; all these little elementary school kids crushing me in a two lap race. It was degrading,” said Colin. “I watched the high school kids fly across the pool in awe, I wanted to be like them. I was told it wasn’t possible, that there was no way I could start swimming my junior year and become competitive.”

Colin said he was embarrassed to wear a swim cap at first. PHOTO COURTESY OF COLIN MCDERMOTT
Colin said he was embarrassed to wear a swim cap at first. PHOTO COURTESY OF COLIN MCDERMOTT

Training became more difficult when he had back surgery.

“Others told me to give it all I got and to not give up,” Colin said. “About a month later I had back surgery due to a previous gymnastics injury, just as I was starting to learn the strokes. It slowed me down for a bit, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wanted to be competitive and swim fast. The first day of High School practice was a wreck. I was scared of everyone (even the freshman) because I was so slow.”

Colin and his team made it to state finals where they competed in the 200 medley relay.

“After losing my entire life’s work as a gymnast to a back injury, it feels amazing to be able to reach my goals,” said Colin. “Eight months ago I did not think that I would be where I am today. Especially since I had back surgery just six months ago!”

The future

“It has been a struggle, but things are finally coming together,” said Connor.

Connor coached gymnastics alongside Mike Serra at Hocking Valley for two years and the boys recently applied for jobs as coaches at the Olympic Academy of Gymnastics.

“We want to give back to the gymnastics community,” Colin said. “In our minds, we are pretty certain that it is the best sport in the world.”

Connor may be graduating but Colin says to expect him on the podium at the state meet next year.