In September of 2016, Hannah Aspden represented the United States at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While swimming in Rio, she earned 2 bronze medals and broke 2 american records. Since her first Olympic debut, Hannah has continued to excel in her swimming career and started to share her journey to inspire others.
Her success at the Paralympic games has drawn light to her inspiring story. From this publicity, Hannah has spoken to many elementary schools, participated in interviews and even talk to some of the top Olympic athletes.
Shortly after the Paralympic games, Hannah and her teammates traveled to DC to meet the President, Vice President and First Lady. “Right after Rio, we got to meet the President, the Vice President and the First Lady; which I never thought I’d be able to say. It was probably the second most memorable experience of my life, the first being standing on the podium at the games,” said Hannah Aspden.
A few weeks later, Hannah attended the first ever Para-Swimming World Series. The opening meet was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in early March. “So that was the first Paralympic World Series meet that we’ve ever had, so that was really exciting to be a part of,” said Aspden.
The meet was during swimmers championship season. Aspden wasn’t training as hard as she normally would so going in the World Series so she didn’t know what to expect. “I wasn’t really in training at that point, so for swimming, it was just a meet to kinda see where I was at and have fun with it. I got to see a bunch of my friends and teammates that I hadn’t seen in a long time, most of us hadn’t seen eachother since Rio. Overall it was a great experience, and I got to get back into my old roots for a bit because my mom’s family is actually from that area,” said Aspden.
The Para-Swimming World Series team and the Paralympic team consisted of many of the same swimmers. “We all keep in touch all the time. A lot of them are retiring, so that’ll be sad to not see them at meets anymore, but I’m sure we’ll keep in touch. It’s good that even though we live so far away we can still get to keep up at times other than swim meets. We keep up through social media and other ways, I’ve really gained a lot of friendships from this. I’m really glad that we all have friendships and talk other than just at meets. They’re all great people, friends and role models,” said Aspden.
Even more opportunities appeared in the recent months for Aspden. At the 2017 YMCA Swimming Nationals, Hannah was able to sit in on an interview with Rowdy Gaines and Missy Franklin; two decorated Olympic swimmers. At Y-Nationals, Hannah competed among her YOTA teammates and against other YMCA teams from around the nation. “That was another amazing opportunity that I still can’t believe. I met Missy Franklin and got to talk to her. It was so much fun to talk to her and see some of my teammates that I haven’t seen in awhile. It was a little overwhelming though, I had already met Rowdy Gaines before, but it was my first time meeting Missy, and she has been a role model of mine for awhile,” said Aspden.
It’s not everyday that athletes get the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with their idol. Aspden was interviewed by both Gaines and Franklin at Y-Nationals. “I would definitely say she has been a role model to me and someone I look up to. Just everything she’s been through: The struggles, the highs and the lows. I feel like she’s a great role model for young kids out there everywhere and I’m very glad that I got to meet her,” said Aspden.
Through this memorable moment, Hannah had the opportunity to receive an autograph from her inspiration and idol, Missy Franklin. The feeling of receiving an autograph was a change of pace for Aspden, because recently it has been her signing papers and different objects. “I actually have her book, and, luckily, my mom was able to get her to sign it before we left, so that was a cool experience,” said Aspden.
From her new found local fame, Aspden has talked to several elementary schools. “The most rewarding part of it is just being able to come back and talk to groups of little kids. I’ve talked to so many 5th grade classes in the past couple months, so that’s been a lot of fun to hear what they have to say and share my experiences,” said Aspden.
One of the best things that has come from her performance in the Paralympic Games was the recognition the sport has received. “The past couple of years [Para-swimming and other Para sports] have gained a lot more attention which has been great because before that no one really knew what it was. The [Para-swimming World Series] is a huge step towards the Olympic and Paralympic teams doing more meets and training together. The sport has progressed over the past few years, and it’s a great honor to be apart of it,” said Aspden.
Hannah has learned lessons, told her story and met incredible role models since her Paralympic debut. “Since the games, through all that I have done, I realized that we are all human, we all have the good times and the bad times, and what you do on all those days is what matters,” said Aspden.