2013-05-24 / Community

Learn To Swim, Olympians Say

By Miriam Rosenberg


US Olympians Mel Stewart and Lenny Krayzelburg answer questions at the swim safety event on May 18. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg US Olympians Mel Stewart and Lenny Krayzelburg answer questions at the swim safety event on May 18. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg With May being National Water Safety month, the Swim Strong Foundation hosted its first summer water event in the Rockaways on May 18th at Far Rockaway High School. Highlights included workshops on water safety in and around the water by Fajr Memorial Foundation; a surf clinic with members of the Surfrider Foundation; and swim sessions for different age groups.

The spotlight was also on the importance of learning to swim, especially in a community such as Rockaway.

“After the impact of superstorm Sandy if you don’t have swimming skills yet, then when,” said Shawn Slevin, the executive director of the Swim Strong Foundation, which teaches swimming to the community at Far Rockaway High School.

Representing the Make a Splash Foundation were two US Olympians. Mel Stewart won three Olympic medals – two gold and one bronze – in Barcelona in 1992. Lenny Krayzelburg is a four-time Olympic gold medalist from the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 games.


Krayzelburg and Stewart hit the FRHS pool to give some swimming lessons. Krayzelburg and Stewart hit the FRHS pool to give some swimming lessons. “It starts with mom and dad bringing their kids to a pool,” said Stewart, about teaching youngsters to swim.

The statistics of those not knowing how to swim is staggering. Stewart said that 70 percent of AfricanAmerican children, 60 percent of Hispanic and Latino children, and 40 percent of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability. There is only a 13 percent chance a child will learn to swim if their parents do not know how.

“Drowning is preventable,” said Krayzelburg. “It’s about taking the first step of getting children or adults to learn how to swim.”

The importance of learning to swim “is the difference between life and death,” said Stewart. “The barriers to get lessons is becoming less and less. If you want the opportunity to get lessons and it’s a financial hurdle you can find a way with organizations such as Swim Strong and the USA Swimming Foundation to learn this life saving skill.”

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