Fastest Swimmer With A Disability ‘Only Getting Faster’
It’s an iconic shot from Tokyo 2020. Utter jubilation. Explosive euphoria. Pure accomplishment.
When Rowan Crothers launched his 196-centimetre frame from the water after winning the 50 metres freestyle S10, spreading his immense wingspan and screaming in delight, he lifted alongside him the entire Australian Paralympic Team at those Games.
Perhaps some of his teammates could relate. For Crothers had been told for years he would never amount to much. He’d been harassed and ridiculed and warned of a future with major limitations.
“I had a lot of doubts early on in my life,” the 26-year-old said.
“I thought that I wasn’t going to be successful at anything. I struggled in school; I was bullied a lot and I remember one day I saw the Beijing Paralympics on TV and I realised that was an opportunity to be successful at something. This could be my chance.”
Crothers was born prematurely, resulting in cerebral palsy, “… a kind of brain damage that impairs my hand-eye coordination and motor skills”.
“The doctors told my mum and dad I would never be fully independent. When you find people that don’t see those barriers, it’s amazing how much more you can accomplish. Being able to show the world that this is what’s possible when you don’t listen to people that say ‘no’.”
Along with his individual gold in Tokyo, Crothers won silver in the 100m and was part of the 4x100m freestyle 34 points team that smashed the world record. The five-time World Champion is a former professional gamer, who goes by the nickname Magnetbrain. He is also a strong advocate for sporting participation among people with a disability and the power of the Paralympic movement to create change.
“It gives people with a disability the opportunity to be a part of a community and to be a part of something that ordinarily we’re just told ‘no, you can’t do this’,” he said.
“It really does change the lives of so many people with a disability in Australia.”
After that iconic moment in Tokyo when he became a Paralympic champion, Crothers won the 50 and 100m sprint double at the 2022 World Championships and then backed up both wins at the 2023 event, sealing his self-proclaimed and entirely accurate title of “the fastest freestyle swimmer with physical disability in the world”.
With Paris 2024 rapidly approaching, Crothers warned: “I’m only getting faster.”