By Julie Devine
Special Olympics Southern California swimmer Jonathan Pierce is already making history and his Special Olympics World Games journey has only just begun.
With Special Olympics as his current focus, Jonny is committed to the training and hard work required of being an athlete. From the dedication he has allotted to swimming, he also has attained an opportunity to further his swimming career—Jonny is the first male athlete in his designated class to qualify for the U.S. Paralympics national team.
Now, with dreams of competing at the 2020 Paralympics, Jonny can use his Special Olympics competitions to improve his times and qualify.
First up: the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, which kicked off with the Opening Ceremony on March 14 in the United Arab Emirates. The week-long competition will be the largest sports and humanitarian affair of the year, bringing over 7,000 athletes and 20,000 volunteers together for an experience of a lifetime.
Jonny, one of six athletes selected from Southern California, will compete in: the 100- and 200-meter freestyle, 100 individual medley and 4×100 relay races. His slate begins Saturday in the 100 IM.
World Games will give Jonathan the opportunity to feed his passion: competition. Ever since Jonny started competing with Special Olympics, his life has changed immensely.
“I think he’s really good [at swimming] and he loves the competition, he loves to race” said Tim Pierce, Jonathan’s father.
“He’s confident he’s swimming with a faster group, and he’s aware of his times. He knows his personal best for every event he swims, and his goal is to always exceed those goals.”
It all started when he was just a young boy, and loved being in the water. It allowed him to relax, where he had a sense of belonging. From there forth, his family knew that swimming was right for him.
Jonny began swimming by influence of his older brother, Christopher, who attended swimming lessons with him in their elementary years. In high school, Jonathan was placed on his varsity team his sophomore year, and succeeded throughout his swim career ever since.
“He loves the water, he’s comfortable” said Tim.
The first claim of victory for Jonny was in 2010 on a Special Olympics podium, where he won four gold medals at a competition in Los Angeles. That’s when he knew that this was something he wanted to continue doing.
For over nine years, Jonny has been training for moments like this, and he cannot wait to swim in the World Games.
“The thought of competing in Abu Dhabi is a dream come true for Jonny,” Tim said.
Afterward, he will shift his focus back to that lofty goal.
In December 2018, Jonny qualified for membership to the U.S. Paralympics National C Team. It was a massive accomplishment that he had been working up to since before last year’s Special Olympics USA Games. He is competing in the S14 class, and is among two others with intellectual disabilities. One of 48 U.S. Paralympic national team selections, Jonny is competing at nationally high levels, and has gold medals to prove it.
Jonny currently holds 22 American Paralympics records in his class, and is constantly seeking more. For instance, while in Abu Dhabi, Jonny will also be tracking his times to send to the Paralympics as well. The faster his times, the higher in ranking he could potentially move up on the National team roster. He is also preparing for the Paralympic trials, where he will compete to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Through it all, Jonny is ready and full of excitement to experience what lies ahead of him.