Grove City College is running down our Top Ten stories of 2021. This story was originally published August 12. Mikaela Jenkins went on to win gold medals in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in the 100-meter butterfly and 4x100-meter medley relay.
Incoming Grove City College freshman Mikaela Jenkins will be late for class this fall, but she’s got a good excuse.
When classes begin Aug. 23 she’ll be in Tokyo getting ready to compete in the Paralympic Games. The longtime competitive swimmer from Evansville, Ind., will miss orientation and the first few days of class as she faces off against some of the world’s best athletes in several aquatic events.
Jenkins is a world champion swimmer who in 2019 won the gold medal for the 100-meter butterfly and two silver medals in the 4x100 free relay and 4x100 medley relay. She is one of just 34 swimmers selected to represent Team USA. She qualified for butterfly, backstroke, breastroke and IM events.
“I am really excited to swim and most of all I want to have fun and enjoy the experience,” Jenkins said. “My goals for games include defending my 2019 World Champion medal in the 100-meter fly, being selected for one Team USA relay – athletes for the relay are decided closer to time in order for the coaches to see how everyone is swimming – and to medal in at least one other event individually.”
Like the 2020 Olympics, the 2020 Paralympic Games were postponed until this year. The international, multi-sport competition for athletes with an impairment runs from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 and will include thousands of athletes from around the world competing in more than 500 events across 22 sports.
Jenkins was born with left Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency, which impaired her limb growth and led to the amputation of her left foot when she was eight months old. She was walking independently with a prosthesis at 17 months and learned to swim when she was 4. She started competing at 8.
Though she’ll get off the starting block a bit later than her peers at Grove City College, Jenkins said she is looking forward to her arrival on campus. “I am flying straight to Pittsburgh after the games and looking forward to meeting new people, learning a lot and swimming with the swim team,” she said.
A Biology/Health major on a pre-med track, Jenkins said she chose Grove City College because of the solid Christian foundation, stellar STEM program, outstanding swimming and diving program and the “stunning” campus. Jenkins is excited about joining the swim team and has her sights set on a NCAA Division III championship at some point in her college career.
She said everyone on campus has been helpful in working around her Paralympics schedule, including her professors and swimming and diving coaches led by Head Coach Dave Fritz.
“I’m very excited for Mikaela and this incredible opportunity that she’s about to experience,” Fritz said. “She’s exceptionally driven but also very humble. I think she encompasses all of the qualities that we strive to maintain in our program – she works incredibly hard, supports her teammates, and puts every effort into being successful in every avenue of her life.”
“Given her work ethic and determination, I believe she will make significant contributions to our team culture and success over the next few years. Mikaela has a great shot at earning All-American during her collegiate career. But the bottom line is that she is competing at the Paralympic Games, the equivalent of the Olympic Games. Regardless of how her career unfolds, she is a unique and special person,” Fritz said.
Photo credit: Morrow Photography