Just Keep Swimming

Sophomore swimmer invited to compete in swim trials for 2020 Olympics


Michael Brandt '17

Maldonaldo practices his breaststroke.

Training for the Olympic swimming trials is not an average part of the high school experience, however Rene Maldonado ‘19 is not your average high school athlete. This summer, Maldonado learned that he has qualified to compete in the trials for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“I got a letter that I will be swimming for the 2020 trials, so what that means is that I’ll have to go through these trials and if I make a certain time and certain place then the end goal is to make the team,” said Maldonado.

Maldonado was given the option to compete for Team USA or Team Puerto Rico, where he lived until the age of 3.

“I have [citizenship] in Puerto Rico, so I will be going for the Puerto Rican team. The U.S. [team] is very competitive [to make] and there are a lot of people,” said Maldonado.

Maldonado began swimming at the age of four when his mother, Nancy, signed him up for swimming lessons.

“My mom wanted me to learn how to swim for vacation, so she wouldn’t have to worry. After my lessons I would see the club team jump in for their practice and I thought that’s cool I want to join,” said Maldonado.

Maldonado, who was named as one of the captains of the swim team as a freshmen, practices every day after school, and sometimes at 6:30 a.m. Maldonado also swims for the Chicago Wolfpack Aquatic Club during the year.

“He’s a very hard worker,” said Cierra Lyons ‘19. “When he’s faced with a challenge, he doesn’t give up. He’s determined with everything that he does,” said Lyons.

Maldonado, whose idols include Michael Phelps and British swimmer Adam Peaty, has qualified for the 100 meter and 200 meter breaststroke-which also happens to be his favorite stroke.

“I grew up on breaststroke, it’s an easy stroke for me,” said Maldonado.

Maldonado’s swimming career has not always been as easy as his breaststroke, this year he faced an unimaginable loss.

“This past year my mom passed away, [from] pancreatic cancer,  I stopped swimming for the rest of that year.”. “It was hard and I wanted to quit swimming, but after I got that letter, it gave me a sign from her to keep going. It was super hard to get back into it, a lot of pain and hard nights, but my body got used to it. Now I’m even more motivated because I’m swimming not only for myself but for her,” said Maldonado.

In memory of his mother, Maldonado will continue his quest for the Olympics by training with the U.S. team in 2018 at their designated training facility in Colorado. Maldonado will either  In 2019, Maldonado will travel to Puerto Rico to train for a year and compete in trials. Maldonado hopes to graduate from Jones, however he has yet to make arrangements.

“I feel that Rene is very fortunate that he will have an opportunity to compete in the Puerto Rican Olympics trials,” said Payton sophomore and Maldonado’s teammate Thomas Gohres. “Experiences like those are rare and I think [Maldonado] will embrace it and perform to his full potential,”.

After the rare experience of competing in Olympic trials, Maldonado hopes to continue swimming and eventually coach.

“My end goal is not only to become an Olympian, but to be a leader for little kids to look up to and to represent what a true leader is,” said Maldonado.