Nothing really comes easy for Groves High School student Tyler Austin – but then again, that's part of the record-winning swimmer's motivation.
"I'm trying to push myself more and more each day," said Austin, who is training for the 2020 U.S. National Paralympic Swimming Trials in Minneapolis. "My teammates' motivation around me helps. And the team bonding and coaches that support you and make you support them, and the connection with swimming. I just keep reminding myself what my goal is and try to reach it, and work my butt off every time. That motivates me to go to practice every day."
Delivered via emergency C-section due to a ruptured umbilical cord during childbirth, Austin underwent two blood transfusions and was intubated and resuscitated twice at birth. After spending the first days of his life on a ventilator in Beaumont Hospital NICU, he was unable to talk or walk until he was nearly three-years-old.
"Not much comes easy to this kid, but he's out there doing things that many imagined wouldn't be possible," said Tyler's dad, Brett Austin.
As he got older, Tyler's parents thought it would be safer if he learned to swim on his own. While he struggled at first, the activity provided a great way to build muscle tone he was lacking. It also allowed mom and dad to stop hovering over their boy at the beach. Within three years, Tyler graduated from the Birmingham YMCA and was swimming with local swim teams.
In 2013, Austin joined the Cranbrook Swim Club, where he met Kristi Moore, who encouraged him to swim faster and stronger. He has also swam for Berkshire Middle School and Groves High School. Austin also swims with Coach Bill Thompson at Motor City Aquatics, which is also his USA Swimming club with whom he has set several national records.
"I like the breast stroke the best," Austin said. "I have the endurance and strength for it the most."
In 2015, at the age of 13, Austin broke the U.S. national swim record for the 400 IM. The following year, he broke his first Pan-Am record. Between 2015 and 2019, Austin broke over 30 U.S. national swim records, including taking the gold medal at the 2019 U.S. Paralympic National Championships in Dallas, where he set a new U.S. national record. He took the gold medal at the 2018 CanAm Paralympic Championships for the 200 Butterfly; the gold at the 2017 CanAm Paralympic Championships in Windsor; was a three-time champion at the Paralympic World Series in 2017 and 2018; and broke the U.S. National Emerging Time Standard in the 100 breaststroke in 2019.
"It has absolutely shocked me in ways that I couldn't imagine," Brett said about Tyler's involvement in the Paralympics, in which many athletes compete at the same level or beyond, some Olympians.
For Tyler Austin, his path is set on achieving what people once thought wasn't possible. That includes plans to attend Oakland University in the future, where he hopes to focus on art – he's already a three-time national finalist for the National PTA Reflections Program, which focuses on visual arts. While he has yet to be accepted into the program, Austin speaks as if it's just a matter of time before he reaches his goal.
"I'm planning to go to Oakland for swimming and studying pottery," he said. "I like colorful artwork. Whenever I think about it, I do it."
No doubt about it.
Photo: Laurie Tennent