Madeleine Choir School alumna competes at World Para Swimming Championships
Friday, Jul. 29, 2022
By Linda Petersen
SALT LAKE CITY —Audrey Kim, an alumna of The Madeleine Choir School, has been making a name for herself in the Para Swimming community since 2018. Last month, the 15-year-old participated as the youngest competitor in the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira, Portugal. There she competed in the 50m Free, 100m Free, 100m back and 200m IM, qualifying for two event finals, the 50m free and 100m free. Audrey also anchored the Team USA mixed 4x100m medley relay and swam the second leg with the 4x100m free relay team, which took home a silver medal.
That success came after difficulties brought on by the pandemic. In 2020, all Para Swimming meets were canceled, which was rough, Audrey said. “I didn’t get to see my friends, and the motivation was not there. My coach and my family kept me going through that.”
She ended up training in a friend’s backyard pool for several months, and when meets resumed last year, she was ready. At the 2021 Paralympic trials she was co-champion in the 50-meter freestyle, which secured her a spot with Team USA to compete in the 2022 Para Swimming World Series in Indianapolis and the world championships in Portugal.
Audrey’s love affair with the water had a rocky beginning. As an infant and toddler, she hated the water and would scream when her parents bathed her. To help overcome this fear, her mother, Mina Kim, enrolled the two of them in a Mommy and Me swim class. This also provided Audrey with some needed exercise for her right arm.
Born with a congenital hand malformation called Syndactyly, on her right hand Audrey has fused first, second and third fingers and is missing her fourth and fifth fingers. She required three corrective surgeries before the age of 4.
Audrey began swimming competitively as a member of the South Davis Aquatic Team, working with coach McKay King. In 2018 she competed in her first national Para Swim meet. She not only took home six medals but also became the American record holder in the 50m backstroke.
Last year, after her family moved from North Salt Lake to Millcreek, Audrey began swimming with the Olympus High School swim team. Due to the move, she competed at the state meet under an unattached status, but this coming season she will swim for the high school.
Tom Thorum, Olympus High’s swim coach, customizes the workout for Audrey when necessary.
“I largely hold her to the same standards and expectations of all my other swimmers, but there are things she can’t do because of her limitations, so we scale those,” Thorum said. “There might be small modifications made for various exercises.”
Thorum said Audrey is an outstanding contributor to the team.
“She’s an amazing young girl,” he said. “She is focused, hardworking, pleasant, easy to coach, smiling. She is very engaged; I couldn’t ask for a better athlete to work with.”
Thorum expects great things at local meets from Audrey this coming season. It will be a different experience for the swimmer, who mostly swam alone during the pandemic.
“It’s been a roller coaster over the past few years, especially with Covid; I really lost a lot of my motivation,” she said. “My friends and my family keep me going through all of this; they keep pushing me forward.”
With the success at this year’s championships, Audrey plans to compete at next year’s world championship meet in London, and hopes to be able to qualify for the 2024 Paris Paralympics. She experiences a lot of pain in her right finger, and further surgeries may be necessary, but all of that is being put on hold until after the Paris Paralympics, her mother said.
While swimming is an important part of Audrey’s life, she excels in other areas as well. She maintains a 4.0 GPA and intends to take several AP courses in school next year. She is also a violinist with the Utah Youth Philharmonic and plays with the orchestra weekly during the school year.
Her rigorous schedule doesn’t leave much time for a social life, but Audrey said she doesn’t resent it. “Para Swimming has brought me so many new friends. I’m definitely very grateful at the opportunities I get. I’m just really proud to represent USA.”
“I never imagined this kind of thing,” Mina Kim said of her daughter’s swimming career. “My expectations for Audrey for swim lessons was just to make her arm stronger and I was hoping she’d move her arm and finger more.”
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