Inspiring American Para-Swimmer EncouragesNamibian Athlete to Dream Big

Diego Kahlari

In a heart-warming display of cross-continental support and camaraderie, American para-swimmer and member of the U.S. Paralympics 2023 National Team, Taylor Winnet, recently connected with aspiring Namibian para-swimmer, Keila de Oliviera.

The virtual meeting served as a beacon of encouragement and empowerment, as the seasoned athlete shared her remarkable journey and offered invaluable insights to inspire Keila’s own para-swimming career.

Taylor Winnet has overcome formidable challenges to become a beacon of inspiration in the para-sports community. After sustaining a series of life-altering accidents, Winnet discovered the world of Paralympic Swimming through Coach Brian Loeffler from Loyola University Maryland. Her transformative journey from devastating injuries to competing at national and international levels highlights the power of resilience and determination.

“I love sharing my story about Para sports because I was an athlete for 13 years before I acquired my disability and I did not even know that the Paralympics existed! One day while swimming at the pool on campus, Brian walked up to me and told me about the Paralympics, and after watching me swim and knowing that I have a spinal injury I could be eligible. The trajectory of my life has changed drastically since then. I still remember how I felt after my pain management doctor told me that I would never be able to compete in swimming again. Since starting my para swimming career in May of 2019 I have competed in America, Italy, and Mexico, I have earned a bronze medal at nationals, and I have broken an American record in the Women’s S10 50-meter Backstroke. All by the grace of God,” she said

Having faced her own battles, Winnet recognizes the transformative role that swimming played in her healing process. The water provided not only physical solace but also a sense of liberation from the constraints of disability. “Something that I love about being in the water is that I do not need to worry about wearing leg braces, walking, using mobility aids, etc. The water is truly a freeing place to be! After I broke my back I struggled immensely with pain and I was afraid to be active. My mental health was at a breaking point as well,”

Winnet advocates for challenging societal perceptions of disabilities, emphasizing that limitless possibilities await those who embrace their unique abilities.

The Zoom meeting between her and Keila de Oliviera showcased the impact of mentorship on a young athlete’s journey. The connection was further cemented by shared experiences, including family support and a passion for the sport. Winnet conveyed advice to Keila, stressing the importance of perseverance, self-belief, and the ability to harness challenges into personal growth.

“Something I loved about being able to meet Keila de Oliviera was seeing her supportive family.

Her uncle taught her how to swim, similar to how my mom taught me how to swim at a young age. It also warmed my heart to hear and see Keila’s mother and grandmother support her during her journey of being an athlete”

“I hope Keila also knows that her disability is something that makes her: her. Being disabled has opened many doors for me. It has helped me be more empathetic. It has helped me learn how to advocate for myself and others. It has helped me meet amazing people around the world just like Keila,” she added

Beyond personal accomplishments, Winnet aims to drive a broader message of inclusivity and empowerment within the para-sports community. Her dedication to advocacy shines through her engagement on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, where she candidly discusses adoption, disability rights, and women in sports. As Winnet continues to chase her aspirations, including competing at the Paris Paralympic Games in 2024, her story serves as an inspiring testament to the holistic nature of professional swimming. Through her commitment to excellence, mentorship, and fostering a supportive environment, Winnet is leaving an indelible mark on the world of para-sports, encouraging Namibian para-swimmers to dream big and embrace their limitless potential.

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