Editor’s Note: 37 year old Aimee Bruder has had cerebral palsy all her life. She qualified for her sixth Paralympic Games this year. She attended her first Paralympic Games in 1992. She competes in the freestyle, the breast stroke, the individual medley and the backstroke. She won three bronze medals in the Atlanta Paralympic Games, a silver medal from the Sydney, Australia Paralympic Games and a bronze medal at China. She qualified in North Dakota on June 14th – 16th, 2012, to swim the 50 meter backstroke for her classification. Athletes with cerebral palsy compete according to the amount of function they have. The highest functioning athletes are classified as S10. The athletes with the least amount of physical function are classified as S1. All her classifications were deleted this year, so she has moved up to a higher classification and will be swimming the 100 freestyle, the 200 freestyle, and the 100 breast stroke in the S5 classification. However, she still will be able to swim the backstroke in the S4 classification. Part 4 of a 5 part series.
“I always thought that I would go into sports administration and possibly become an athletic director,” Aimee Bruder explains. “So, I went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. As I was taking my core classes and trying to prepare for my junior year, I had a change of heart. I decided I did not really like my major and wanted to transfer. I always had wanted to go to Eastern Kentucky, but I thought because it was out of state, the fees would be too expensive for me to attend there. I liked Eastern Kentucky and would have liked to go there my freshman year. So, when the time came for me to decide what classes I needed to take my junior year of college, I went and looked at Eastern Kentucky University. I loved the school as soon as I saw it. Looking at the catalogue, I found they offered a degree in therapeutic recreation. At the time, Eastern Kentucky had not kept up with inflation like many other schools had. I learned that I would have to pay the same price to attend a college in Indiana that I would have to pay if I went out of state to Eastern Kentucky. I was swimming in the Masters Swim Team program at Ball State. I found that my dad, because he was a teacher, knew someone at Eastern Kentucky who was a professor there. He told the professor that he knew that I was planning to come to Eastern Kentucky, so the professor agreed to take me on my tour of the campus. As luck would have it, this professor was also the swim coach at Eastern Kentucky.
“Eastern Kentucky did not have a competitive swim team, however there was a club swim team and a high school swim team near the campus with whom I could train. The coach at the college was the late Tim Cahill. My dad had told Mr. Cahill some about my swimming. When I went for my school visit atEastern Kentucky, Coach Cahill said, ‘I heard you like to swim,’ and I told him, ‘Yes, I really do.’ He told me that once I was enrolled and accepted, ‘Why don’t you come to swim club practice, and I will see if I can help you or not.’ Of course he had never seen me swim before. I told him that I wanted to train to compete in the 1996 Paralympic Games. I knew that to make the Paralympic team, I would have to train really hard, do the best I could and leave everything else up to God. I already had attended the Paralympic Games in 1992 and knew I wanted to return if I could.”
“When I arrived at Eastern Kentucky and told my late coach Tim Cahill that I wanted to train for the next Paralympic Games 2 years away, he said, ‘Let’s work together for a trial period,’” Bruder remembers. “He said, ‘Once we figure out if you and I can work together to train for the Paralympic Games, then we will move on from there.’” Every swimmer is different, and the relationship between the coach and the swimmer had to work for both. The coach had to believe in and be willing to sacrifice his time for his swimmer. The swimmer had to be able to work out his or her schedule to meet the coach’s demands. But, more importantly, there had to be a bond between the coach and the swimmer – much like a marriage. They both had to be willing to work and train hard enough to help the athlete to become the best that he or she could be. Without the bond between the athlete and the coach reaching to the highest level, competition in any sport would be extremely difficult, because a great coach would push the athlete beyond his or her perceived limitations.
“Coach Cahill needed to know and see that I was willing to work out as long and as hard as he would push me,” Bruder reports. “We were two different individuals coming from two entirely different backgrounds. So, we had to have a trial period to see if we could work together.” But after 3 days of working together, Coach Cahill came to Aimee and said, “Okay, we can work together, and I will help train you for the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.” At the 1996 Paralympic Games, Aimee Bruder won three bronze medals in swimming. Aimee Bruder was and is more than an athlete. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University cum laude in 1998 with a degree in therapeutic recreation. After graduation, she returned home to Cincinnati, got a job in an independent living center and continued to train with the Cincinnati Marlins swim club, a Masters swim club which has athletes of all ages and all ability levels. The age group requirements to be part of a Masters swim club are from 18 to 100+ years old. So, Bruder went to swim practice every day after work to train for the next Paralympic Games. “My coach back then was Paige Lumpkins. I trained with her up until 2002, right before the World Championships.”
Next: Aimee Bruder Prepares For The London 2012 Paralympics
About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com