The University of Arizona’s Adaptive Athletics program is widely regarded as one of the most successful in the country. Established in 1989, the program boasts over 40 paralympic competitors, with a myriad of individual and national competitive titles.

There is one particular program among Adaptive Athletics that makes UArizona especially unique; a first-of-its-kind para swimming program. The first para swimming team to hit the lanes was back in fall of 2021. It marked the seventh sport to join the ever-growing roster of Adaptive Athletics, in addition to: men’s and women’s basketball, golf, handcycling, rugby, tennis, and track and road racing.

Adaptive Athletics Director Peter Hughes helped establish the team, stumbling upon its very first member by complete chance. He met Annalysa Lovos back in 2020, when she paid the Disability Resource Center’s adaptive gym a visit.

“I was intrigued by the idea. I’ve always been a swimmer, just for my own fitness, since I broke my back over 20 years ago. I just like doing my best and being as fit as I can be, because it helps my independence and general abilities as a wheelchair user. I’ve always been athletic,” Lovos said.

After finding an interested participant, the only thing the program needed was a coach. Hughes set his sights on Laura Utsch. Utsch was a former collegiate backstroker, and spent years coaching as well as operating the Oro Valley swimming nonprofit ‘Find Your Fins.’

Now in 2023, Lovos has two more teammates by her side, as the team prepares to welcome its first formal recruiting class later this fall. So far, the para swimming team has managed to swoop up three more potential paralympians.

“What is unique about our program is that we’re going to accept anybody, regardless of their disability,” Hughes said.

You can read more about this growing team here.



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