It started with a First Swim Clinic in Charlotte, NC in 2015. Kristan Seaford had not been in the water since losing both arms below the elbow and one leg below the knee due to a devastating infection that nearly took her life. As she puts it, she had “no idea how I would or could survive in the water.” But, her instructor- two-time World Champion Triathlete Mabio Costa, coached her through her fears.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared, before or since,” Kristan recounted of the experience. Sitting at the edge of the pool, without her prostheses, she was told to jump in; jump into a 12-foot pool without the limbs that used to carry her through the water.
Mabio had told Kristan what to expect: that she would sink to the bottom, where she should push off and swim to the top as fast as she could. “I doubted that he would go through all of this just to watch me drown,” she shared.
Pushing past her fear, Kristan took the plunge. “It happened JUST like he said it would. I sank to the bottom. I pushed off, and I swam as fast as I could to the surface. I lifted my head, and I heard a boisterous cheer,” she explained.
Sitting in the bleachers near the pool were her husband and kids, clapping with big smiles on their faces. She did it! And, seeing what was possible, Kristan didn’t stop there. She went on to participate in First Climb, First Dance, First Cycle, and additional First Swim clinics. She has embraced each experience and used them to build her own skills beyond the clinic environment.
“The OPAF First Clinics have empowered me,” Kristan said. “I’ve tried things I never thought I’d do again, and tried things I’ve never tried before and never dreamed I could or would when I was able-bodied,” she added. “You convinced me that I can still be an athlete.”
Kristan shared that she has learned several things about herself participating in First Clinics including: “I am brave, I can be a risk-taker, and I can do just about anything that I want to do.” She has also learned a lot about “the strength of the human spirit” saying, “The other participants inspire and encourage me to keep going, to keep trying, and to keep smiling. They’ve proven to me, time and time again, that amputees are, as a rule, the most amazing people on the planet!”
What would Kristan say to someone considering a First Clinic? “Stop ‘considering’ and talking yourself out of going and just go! You won’t be sorry!”