There’s not a challenge too big in the mind of Winter Garden’s own Victor Wright.
Even as Wright’s sensitivities — caused by his Asperger’s syndrome — were overwhelming him as a child, he managed to find ways to cope thanks to the therapy he went through. But nothing has helped the now 19-year-old as much as his time in the pool as a swimmer.
Wright’s grit and determination in the pool led to him joining the swim team at West Orange High School, and in this last year, he did something no one with special needs had ever done at the school: Letter in swimming.
“We’re very proud … that was a very big deal for us,” said Henry Wright, Victor Wright’s father. “We ordered his jacket already, so we can’t wait to get that on his jacket as a great keepsake.”
Along with getting his varsity letter, Victor Wright also came home one day last week with an award in his backpack. As it turned out — much to his parent’s surprise — he had been bestowed the Bill Cook Award for academic excellence, leadership and sportsmanship for the 2020-21 academic school year by Principal Matthew Turner.
For Victor Wright to earn such an award meant a lot to the Wrights, who have long been about seeing their son be included in the daily goings on at the school.
“He’s won a few awards — he was student of the month just a few months ago, which was a big deal for us, as well — but I was blown away, because I didn’t even know the award existed, and I think it was an honor,” Henry Wright said. “You know, my whole thing was for Victor to be included, so inclusion is so, so important for us.”
And although the award is cool in its own way, Victor Wright has his sights set on something a bit bigger: Qualifying as a swimmer for the 2022 USA Special Olympics.
DEALING WITH THE HURDLES
Last year, when COVID-19 shut down just about everything, Victor Wright was left with few options of where and how he practiced his swimming.
Both the Rosen Aquatic and Fitness Center, as well as the Roper YMCA, were shut down — leaving Wright going through his swim motions either in the pool in his backyard or at the family’s place in New Smyrna Beach. In addition, Victor Wright also lost out on swim time with the Special Olympics throughout 2020.
Victor Wright got to enjoy his final season on the West Orange team in the fall, but with the lack of actual training during the year, he fell behind a bit. Once the season was completed, Henry Wright was looking to get his son with a team so he could get some proper training done. Ultimately, he connected with the Lake Gators Swim Team — which swims out of the National Training Center in Clermont.
“I’m having a lot of fun with the team,” Victor Wright said. “I’m the youngest on the team — training with lots of experienced swimmers. Coach Cindy has been working with me in the pool one-on-one. She has me doing swimming drills I have never done before, but she makes everything really fun.”
Since February, Victor Wright has trained two days a week with the team — swimming between 800 to 1,000 meters a session. Along with his time there, Victor Wright also trains every Tuesday at Rosen with a group of Special Olympians. Eventually, he will add three days of training at the Roper.
With all that training the hope for Victor Wright is to dominate at this year’s Special Olympic events in Florida — including the county, regional and state meets — and ultimately make it to the Special Olympics USA Games, which will be held in Orlando in 2022. To do so, he will have to bring home a few first-place finishes, but Victor Wright is ready for the challenge.
“I know it is going to be very, very hard to make the team,” Victor Wright said. “I must turn up my training workouts, listen to my coaches and take it very seriously. It would make me very happy to make the team — I know it would make my WOHS swim team happy, Special Olympics of Orange County happy, and mainly my mom and dad really happy.”