by Dan Holland
Brecksville resident Lucas Culotta, a 14-year-old freshman at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, has been rewriting the record books as a competitive swimmer in adaptive sports over the last few years.
In December, he achieved qualifying times in five events at the U.S Paralympics Swimming National Championships held in Greensboro, North Carolina, according to his mom, Tricia Culotta.
“He had personal records in all of those,” she explained. “He had a couple of third-place finishes in his classification, and those are all kids who are 16, 17 or older who beat him. His goal is to compete in the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris, and this was a definite stepping stone.”
Lucas, who was born at just 27 weeks, suffers from cerebral palsy, spastic paraplegia and congenital scoliosis. He began swimming at the age of 8 as part of a physical therapy regimen. A few years later, he was competing in adaptive sports swimming competitions.
He recently competed as a paralympic triathlete with Move United, a non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of parasports among youths and adults with physical disabilities. Lucas holds national records in seven swimming events for Move United, competing in swimming, running and bicycling.
Adaptive sports – not to be confused with the Special Olympics – rates athletes on a reverse scale of 10-1, going from least to most physically disabled. Lucas has an S9 designation for swimming competitions.
“We’re proud parents; the kid pushes through so much pain, because he’s so competitive,” said Tricia of herself and husband, Gus. “He doesn’t let anything stop him; he’s at the pool at least four days a week swimming two hours at a time.”
Lucas qualified for the Move United Junior Nationals held last summer in Denver, Colorado, where he had four first-place finishes and set two national records in the under-17 category, said Tricia. He is currently training for the World Para Swimming World Series to be held in Indianapolis April 7-9, where he will compete as an S9 para swimmer in the 50, 100, and 400-meter freestyle races and the 200-meter individual medley.
He is currently ranked in the top five nationally within his classification in all four swim strokes, which includes backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle and the individual medley, which incorporates all four strokes.
Lucas trains locally with the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins swim club, an affiliate of USA Swimming.
“The coaches there are making the modifications that he needs for what his body can do,” explained Tricia. “He followed his coaches there. Some of them he’s had for several years now.”
Tricia stressed the importance of athletic organizations allowing modifications for adaptive sports athletes.
“He’s just like all these other kids, and kids like him often train harder than able-bodied kids because they have so much to overcome,” she said. “In his case, he often has to work through the pain. You may see some differences or you may not see any differences, but they’re athletes all the same.”
“Competing is a lot of fun,” said Lucas. “You swim, push your body to its limit, burn your body out, and then do it all over again. Through of all that, I have my coaches, teammates and my family encouraging me. It is a great sport and experience. You can accomplish anything If you put your mind to it and are willing to work hard.” ∞