The 2012 London Paralympic Games left University of Indianapolis senior swimmer Dalton Herendeen with unfinished business, and now he is on a quest to finish what he started. Because he did not medal in 2012, Herendeen’s goal is to make the United States Paralympic Swim Team for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and most importantly receive a medal. But there are some things that come before that.
Herendeen used his senior year of college swimming to prepare for the Can-Am Para-Swimming Championships that took place from March 20-22 in Toronto, ON, Canada. While in Toronto, Herendeen secured a spot on the 2015 International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships from July 13-19.
In order to prepare for the World Championships, Herendeen will travel to Colorado Springs, Colo., to the Olympic Training Center. While there, he hopes to get to know his new coaches, so that they are able to understand each other when the time comes for Rio.
“A lot of these Paralympic coaches, I don’t get a lot of time to work with. So it’s important that I do work with them when I have the time, so when I get out to those big meets, they understand me, and I understand them,” Herendeen said. “When we get to the situation where I want to change something, I want to fix something, or I need to do this in my meet, they are there to help me, because they understand me as a swimmer.”
When Herendeen was young, all he wanted was to make the team.
“At one time, all I wished was to make the team. I’d go home, look at the email and see my name on the bottom of the list and it would kill me every time,” he said. “So now it is different. I am making the teams, so I definitely think about that. And I am humble that I do make these teams.”
In preparation for the 2016 Rio games, Herendeen said he is making all of the teams and doing all the right things.
“I count my blessings. [In] my first [trip to the] Olympic Games, I didn’t make any teams. I was that kid that would show up to the meet but wasn’t quite there yet. It kind of reminded me of Hercules. He was close, but he couldn’t make it,” he said. “So this term, going into Rio, has been different. I’ve been making all of the teams and doing great things. It’s absolutely huge for me.”
Looking back at London, Herendeen said that he saw himself as a lucky kid who made it to the games.
“I was just happy I made the team,” he said. “I knew that no matter what happened in London, I was going to be a Paralympian for the rest of my life, and that excited me more. What I care about now is medaling and bringing home the hardware.”
During the trials for the games in London, Herendeen said that he would call former UIndy Head Swimming and Diving Coach Gary Kinkead. According to Kinkead, Herendeen was not confident that he was going to receive the opportunity to represent the United States at the games that summer.
“He was surprised to make the 2012 Paralympics. They [the Paralympic team] were going to be taking 15 people from the U.S., and he kept me informed every day of the Olympic trials,” Kinkead said. “[During] the last night [of the trials] he goes, ‘Gary, I don’t think I made it. You had to be in the top 15 and I don’t think I made it.’ He and his parents were at the airport the next day, and on their way back to Indianapolis, he got a call from the head coach [of the national team] telling him to come back because he made the team.”
Since he began preparing for Rio, Herendeen has a different mindset. Now that he is already a Paralympian, he has bigger plans than just competing in the Paralympics. He wants to medal.
“You don’t work your whole life not to do something like this. It would kill me inside if I were to finish my swimming career and not medal,” he said. “It is definitely in the back of my mind that I want to medal. It is the only thing left in my career. The only thing I haven’t done is medaled, and it’s the only thing keeping me going.”
Kinkead said that he believes Herendeen has it in him to earn a medal.
“It’s very big [Herendeen’s accomplishments], but he has worked for this since day one that he was here,” Kinkead said. “His ability levels will take him very far in the Paralympics.”