The 2012 Paralympic Games began in London today, and Nevada is one of 43 states represented on Team USA. Hailing from the Silver State is Cortney Jordan, a 21-year-old swimmer born and raised right here in the Las Vegas Valley.
The Coronado High graduate made her Paralympic debut in Beijing, where four medals were wrapped around her neck—two silvers, a bronze and the coveted gold. This time around, Jordan has the opportunity to top that, as she’ll swim in at least six events: the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 400 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley. Relay teams hadn’t been determined at press time.
“I would love to medal, and that’s my goal—to get a medal, any color,” says Jordan, who has cerebral palsy. “Also, I just want to have a good team coming home, who’s happy about their performance and gave a strong performance.”
And about those butterflies? Jordan says it’s not an issue when she’s on the starting block. “I love what I do. … I know I belong in the water, and I have been training so hard. And it’s just time for me to show everyone how hard I’m training and what I’m capable of.”
Before the Paralympic flame was lit in London, Jordan took a few moments to discuss her training schedule, how she started swimming, her love for the sport and more.
It’s your second time competing in the Paralympic Games. What are you most excited about this time around?
I think I’m most excited about being part of the team again. The team is super close, we’re like a family. And just being able to represent our country and come together is wonderful for all of us.
I know you’re in London right now. Will you have some time to watch some of the other sporting events this time around?
Probably not … I have two days off, but with swimming, we as a team like to be there for the other athletes. So I would go and cheer for my teammates instead of seeing other events. Not that I don’t want to see the other events, we just want to make sure that everyone has someone cheering for them, because some people don’t have family coming, so we want to make sure that everyone has a good support system.
When did you start swimming?
I started swimming when I was club swimming when I was seven years old. Fourteen years. Oh gosh! (laughs)
Why, exactly, do you love swimming?
Well, swimming is kind of in my blood. My grandfather was one of the founders of the Swimming Hall of Fame. My dad was a nationally ranked swimmer … My sister was a state champion swimmer. And I started swimming because it was physical therapy, because it feels so good when I’m in the water. With my disability, there are a lot of aches and pains that come along with it. But then when I’m in the water, I don’t feel those pains. And so it was just a therapeutic thing in the beginning. But I came to not want to leave it, and so that’s how I got involved with Paralympic Swimming.
What else motivated you to overcome the adversity of that, besides just the swimming itself?
Well, I have a really wonderful family, and they never really let me use my disability as an excuse for anything. My sister was really energetic as a kid, so I was like, “No, I’m tired” and she was like, “No, we’re doing this.” (laughs) She’s always been there to help me and my mom was a stay-at-home mom, which really helped because she was able to give me the little extra time I needed. And my dad’s a military man, so he’s always strong and he didn’t want me to not do anything because of my disability.
Are there any athletes that you look up to, personally, for motivation or inspiration?
Oh my gosh, my entire team. We have so many incredible athletes, they inspire me on a daily basis. I just wish that everyone could know about them, and I can’t even choose one to tell you about even, because they’re so incredible. Each and every single one of them have an amazing story and an amazing outlook on life, and I would not be the person I am without them.
I saw you were named the captain of the swimming team this time around. What additional responsibilities does that carry?
It takes a little bit more work because we have to look out for others. Swimming is an individualized sport, but being captain on the team, I have to make sure that everyone else has everything. I try to provide a little bit more emotional support than I did the first time around, and just helping – helping the coaches, helping athletes and the coaches communicate better – and also I get to choose the outfits … so that’s a plus (laughs).
Very cool! That’s even more interesting considering the to-do with the outfits this time around.
The outfits are so cool! We had processing today. Ugh, I love them all.
I know you’re a student as well, you must be terribly busy. What has your training schedule been like to prepare for these games?
I’ve been really lucky because I was able to have the summer to train … I moved to Minnesota for the summer and trained with the head coach, his name’s Tom Franke. And I moved in with him and his family and just trained all summer. But during a school year, I get up in the morning and train from 5 to 7 in the morning. And then I have class and then I have teacher hours and then I have class again and swim again, and weights sometime in there, and then I get up and do it all over again.
Wow, you do keep busy. With all of that running around and such, how do you unwind?
There’s not much down time when you’re swimming and working as hard, but I’m a student teacher because I want to be an elementary school teacher, and that’s really like my favorite place to be, is just with kids, because … it’s work but it doesn’t feel like work. And I have a lot of good friends who can make sure that I have time to myself and time to relax, because it’s definitely necessary to have [with] everything that I have going on, so that’s good.
I know that you’re also an NIAA Top Ten Scholar Athlete and an Academic All-American. As I said, you sound so busy, and you still make time to excel in things other than swimming. What advice do you have for other people who may be looking up to you?
If you love what you do, like I said, it doesn’t feel like it’s work. I want to be a teacher more than anything, so I am going to dedicate myself 100 percent to that. And when I’m in the water I dedicate myself 100 percent to that. I think it’s all about whatever you’re doing, try with everything you have. Because if you do that, and you love what you’re doing, you’re going to succeed.