News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

September 14, 2012

Headed to D.C.: Back from London, Evan Austin visits White House today

TERRE HAUTE — A Terre Haute Torpedo swimmer has surfaced in Washington, D.C.

2011 Terre Haute South Vigo graduate Evan Austin, a world-class swimmer who this month competed in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, is meeting his teammates and other Olympians in the nation’s capital where they will be welcomed today at the White House.

Austin, also a member of the Terre Haute Torpedoes swim club and an assistant coach at Terre Haute South, returned from the 2012 games on Monday, which was also his 20th birthday. On Thursday, he boarded yet another jet – this time bound for Washington, D.C., where he will join hundreds of other top athletes who represented the USA this summer in London.

The White House reception is the icing on a multi-month cake that started when Austin qualified to be one of 14 swimmers to represent the USA at qualifying trials earlier this year in Bismarck, N.D.

“It’s just been fun,” Austin said summing up the whirlwind of the entire Paralympics experience, including multiple media interviews. “I’ve loved how the community has rallied behind me.”

Austin has a local fan club and more than 500 followers on Twitter, the social networking website. He kept his fans updated throughout the London games.

While in London, Austin competed in five qualifying heats and two medal races. He didn’t come home with any medals, but said the experience taught him many lessons he can use as he turns his thoughts to qualifying for the 2016 summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I’m already excited for Rio,” Austin said.

Austin said he did not have the best swim competition of his life in London, but gained valuable experience that will help as he prepares for 2016, when he’ll be just 23.

“This is our learning curve,” Austin said. “We have a goal and learned a lot. I’m not upset.”

Austin swam in the men’s 100-meter freestyle, the men’s 200-meter individual medley relay, the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay, the men’s 100-meter breaststroke and the men’s 100-meter butterfly. He qualified for the finals in the 100-meter breaststroke, and his team qualified for the finals in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay.

During the games, sometimes getting a good night’s sleep was difficult, Austin said.

“Your system really gets out of whack” because of the intensity and the ups and downs of a 10-day competition, he said, adding that there is a heavy emotional and physical toll in competing for that length of time.

“It’s a lot different from a small club meet in Terre Haute,” Austin said. “The energy and atmosphere was just incredible.”

Whenever British athletes would be introduced, the crowd of about 18,000 would erupt with cheers, Austin said. And the first time he entered the competition’s “ready room” with rival athletes before a swim, it was something like he’d never experienced. “That alone is pretty intense,” he said.

Back home, Austin has already been called upon to assist his longtime coach, South’s Jeff Thompson, as one of the assistant coaches for the southside school.

“It’s really rewarding,” Austin said of coaching. “I feel it’s kind of my duty to give back as much as I can.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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