Simply Swim are delighted to share the story of Jamal Hill. This charismatic swimmer from California has overcome obstacles to become a star in the United States Para Swimming team. We managed to sit down with Jamal and ask him some questions about his journey and what the future holds for a man with limitless ambition.
Simply Swim: How did you get into competitive swimming?
Jamal Hill: I began swimming in mommy & me and was a part of the swim team until I was 10 years old. At the age of ten I was paralysed by a type of disease called Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT). I didn’t begin swimming competitively again until the age 16 when I was a sophomore in high school. I got involved with the swimming community as a Los Angeles county lifeguard, where I saved lives and taught swimming lessons for 8 years. My Competitive swimming career starts at Hiram College in North East Ohio, where I swam for 3 years. From there I moved home to Southern California, as a team representative of USC Trojan Elite swim team. After a year of Competing with the trojans, I deferred to an elite swim team in Burbank called the Golden Rebels which I have been a member of for the past 2 years. This past year I attended my first international Swim Meet as a member of the Team USA Paralympic swimming team, ranking #1 in the nation.
Simply Swim: What was the biggest factor in getting back in the pool after being diagnosed with CMT and dislocating your right shoulder at such a young age?
Jamal Hill: The biggest factor in me getting back into the pool was the healing aspect. I took a 6-year hiatus from the sport, because of how much physical trauma I sustained during my developmental years. Fortunately, that hiatus served as a time for my body to be able to repair itself. When I entered my sophomore year of high school, my parents were fearful about me joining the swim team, but in the end we all decided that I deserved that second chance at my dream.
Simply Swim: What advice would you give to swimmers who have similar disorders?
Jamal Hill: I was able to overcome CMT when I decided that anything I put my mind to, I could accomplish. CMT was something that I was born with and have lived with for most of my life. Staying active and keeping a clean alkaline diet have been the biggest contributors to my successful lifestyle adaptation. My advice for anyone with CMT is to stay active as much as possible, even if its uncomfortable. The more we move, the more we’re able to train the firing neural pathways to become stronger. Movement is your best friend! Also, there’s nothing to be ashamed about, you can change the world just by sharing your testimony of overcoming struggle. Stay strong and lean on the CMT community for support and understanding. That said, don’t be afraid to join “normal” or “able-bodied” sporting programs, allow yourself to be challenged on a greater level and be a mark of inspiration to those around you.
Simply Swim: What makes Wilma a perfect fit as your coach?
Jamal Hill: My current coach Wilma Wong has had the most profound effect on my career trajectory, with her intersection of wisdom and innovative training styles. I like to call us Mrs. Miyagi and The Karate Kid, because in several ways she has adopted me as a mentee and son. Wilma is honest, and she will address any discrepancies in conduct or logic. My ability to receive her constructive criticism and not feel personally attacked allows us to exchange congruent & conflicting ideas, much like that of partners in a business.
Simply Swim: Who are your big inspirations in the world of sport?
Jamal Hill: My biggest inspirations in the world of sport are Muhammad Ali, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams. I think all these athletes have an uncanny ability to visualise their success and execute their visions with repeated success. I think Muhammad Ali is my standout favourite of all time, because he embodied what a true champion is. He lived for what was right and made that his legacy even at the cost of his life’s work in the boxing ring. I admire that type of social martyrdom in today’s world of ubiquitous conformity.
Simply Swim: What does the future hold for you?
Jamal Hill: Tokyo 2020 – 4 Paralympic Gold Medals
Paris 2024 – 8 Paralympic Gold Medals
Teach millions of people to swim over the world
Cure Charcot Marie Tooth
Los Angeles 2028 – 4 Olympic Gold Medals
Become a movie star
Found a University
Inspire minds and missions even greater than my own
Create a whole dynasty and empire
To help promote Jamal’s incredible story, LA based video director John Duarte has teamed up with Jamal to document his journey. Check out the short doc ‘Swim Up Hill’ below.