A New Champion

Swimmer Phil Scholz, who is blind, bound for Paralympics in Beijing

By Charles Cohen  |  Photo by Maria Linz, '05

On a chilly Sunday morning, Loyola’s Fitness and Aquatic Center springs to life with the energy of 70 swim team members working the pool with factory-like precision. Swimmers flip turn and push off walls, moving with balletic grace. From this rhythmic splashing one swimmer climbs out on the deck and sits dripping, cocking his head as if troubled.

But there’s nothing wrong with Phil Scholz, ’11, Loyola’s only blind swimmer. He’s just waiting for Coach Brian Loeffler to tell him the next routine in the morning’s practice. After all, he can’t see the tasks Loeffler’s written for the rest of the team on the board. Loeffler leans down and tells him to do 10 more freestyle laps. With that, Scholz dives back in, quickly finding the lane buoy that guides him to the other side.

The relationship between Loeffler and Scholz relies on this kind of communication—a connection that paid off sweetly the first week in April when Scholz captured gold medals in the 1500 Free, 100 Free, 400 Free and 100 Fly at the U.S. Paralympic trials in Minneapolis and earned a spot on the team bound for Beijing in September.

“If you would have told me what would happen the past few months, I would have told you you were crazy,” says Scholz. “But then again, I never believed I’d go blind, either.”

Swimmer Phil Scholz, '11, practices at Loyola's Fitness and Aquatic Center.

Scholz rise to paralympic swimming’s top ranks has been nothing short of meteoric. Born in Germany but raised on Long Island, Scholz earned his U.S. citizenship last fall just days before setting American paralympic records in a dozen different events at meets in Baltimore and College Park. Such sudden success led CollegeSwimming.com to name him Division I National Swimmer of the Week, and sparked the interest of a number of Baltimore-area print and TV reporters. Soon enough, Scholz set his sights on a strong performance at the U.S. Paralympic trials and a spot on the Beijing team, with Loeffler and his teammates helping him prepare for both contests.

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