Santa Clara University

Bronco Profile


Back in the swim of things

Kelly Crowley

Kelly Crowley '99, a  part-time staff member for SCU's Environmental Studies Institute and medal-winning Paralympian, has been selected as one of the 41 swimmers who will represent the United States at the Paralympic Games in Athens this summer.

At the April 2004 USA Swimming National Disability Championships, she took home six gold medals in six events and set a new American record in the 50 freestyle.

Crowley, a 27-year-old Bay Area native, has been a member of the U.S. Paralympic Elite team since 2002, when she participated in the World Championships in Argentina. She was the only American Paralympic swimmer chosen to compete at the world championships in Barcelona, Spain, last July.

The valedictorian of her class, Crowley is back at SCU working part-time with the Environmental Studies Institute as the outreach coordinator for habitat restoration in the Ulistac Natural Area of the City of Santa Clara, and pursuing her dream of swimming in Athens at the 2004 Paralympics.

Crowley was born with no elbow and just three fingers on her right arm. But that has not stopped her from always being an athlete. As a youth, she played basketball, volleyball, tennis, gymnastics, and other sports.

Even though she had been swimming competitively since the second grade, Crowley took six years off during college and graduate school. Her interest in the sport was rekindled after the Sydney Olympics when she was flipping through the channels on the television and saw a swim meet in which all of the swimmers on the blocks had disabilities. Until then, Crowley had no idea that disabled swimmers competed on such a high level. She was inspired to get back in the pool and resume training. Crowley essentially learned how to swim again. She participated in her first long-course meet in more than six years at the 2002 USA Disability Championships, winning three gold medals and five silvers.

She went on to win a silver medal at the World Championships in Argentina in December 2002.

Crowley says it was the SCU community that gave her the confidence that has led to her numerous accomplishments.

"When you grow up with a 'disability,' it gets drilled into your head that you're different and you cannot do everything normal people can," she says. "My SCU professors, my friends, and particularly the folks in Campus Ministry helped me really believe what I sensed even as a kid: that those expectations are false. Every success that has landed on my doorstep ever since...has been a direct result of my ability to rediscover that same sense of self-confidence that I learned to find at Santa Clara."

-Erin Ryan '03

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