NewsJessica LongJulia Gaffney

Roundup: Behind The Scenes At Worlds With U.S. Swimmers

by Karen Price

Olivia Chambers dives off the blocks at the 2023 Para Swimming World Championships (Photo by Ralf Kuckuck/USOPC)

Every other week we scour the web for the latest going on in the world of U.S. Para swimming. Here’s what you missed!

Looking Back At Manchester

If the members of Team USA are still celebrating their tremendous success at the world championships in Manchester, England, you could hardly blame them.

The U.S. pulled in a total of 25 medals at the last major international competition before next summer’s Paralympics in Paris, led by Olivia Chambers with six medals and Noah Jaffe with five. Both were making their world championships debuts.

We’ve got some behind-the-scenes photos and reactions to the goings-on across the pond, so read on!

And catch up on all the race recaps here:

Night one

Night two

Night three

Night four

Night five

Night six

Night seven

Stickney’s Big Showing

Morgan Stickney, who’s been in and out of the hospital this year, kicked off the meet by not only winning gold in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S7, but also smashing the world record. 

She wrote:

“World Champion‼️

“Grateful to be able to do what I love and represent the best country in the world🇺🇸 This year has been one of the most challenging, but thankful for everyone who has stood by me🫶🏼”

The Cary, North Carolina, native then followed that up with another world title, this time in the 100-meter freestyle S7 with a time nearly three seconds ahead of the rest of the field. 

She wrote:

“All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the amazing people in my life who helped me achieve this dream!! Never be afraid to dream BIG!!”

Can’t stop Jessica Long

This was Long’s eighth world championships, and she came into it with a collection of 52 medals, including 35 golds. She posted at the start of the meet:

“Competing at my 8th World Championships tomorrow. I swim on day 3! This year of training has certainly come with its ups and downs — I trained mostly by myself, which any swimmer knows how difficult that is. I love this sport so much and know no matter what, it’s given me the best of friends, traveling the world and a lot of incredible memories. 

“I’m truly just grateful to be here. I’m not worried about the results, for me Paris 2024 is the big show. Thanks for all the love and support over the years.” 

Yet the results still came for Long. She captured the world title in the women’s 100-meter butterfly S8, and days later earned her 37th career world title in the women’s 200-meter individual medley S8, topping the field by nearly four seconds. 

If you want to see what all her medals look like lined up, here’s a representation in icons…

And here’s a story about her 37th career gold medal.

Chambers Introduces Herself

Olivia Chambers was named Swimmer of the Meet at the U.S. championships last December, in a sign of things to come. She went six-for-six in podium performances in her world championships debut, leading the U.S. in total medals with two silvers and four bronze medals in events including freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and individual medley. 

She’s a sophomore at the University of Northern Iowa, and you can check out a feature story on the school’s website here.

Get to know this 2024 Paris hopeful better with this feature published on the U.S. Paralympics Swimming website just last month.

More Behind the Scenes Peaks from Paralympians

Colleen Young reacted to her silver medal, writing, “never satisfied, always grateful 🇺🇸 my 12th world championships medal is a silver in the 100m breaststroke! always fun racing with @becky_redfern and getting to share a podium with @olivia_c03 was the best part of the night. 3 more races to go this week 😮‍💨😮‍💨”

Ahalya Lettenberger, who won silver in the same race in which Stickney won gold and set her first world record, wrote before the meet started:

“It’s go time! World Championships start tomorrow here in Manchester! 🥳🏊‍♀️🇬🇧
“I race the 200 IM SM7 tomorrow and the 400 free S7 on Tuesday! Tune in on Peacock to watch :)
“So excited to race and can’t wait for Team USA to crush it 💪🇺🇸”

While Lawrence Sapp wrote: 

“Here we are at the para swimming World championships Manchester. I’m excited to race here to go really Fast. Let’s get this party started. 🟡🟢”

Julia Gaffney won two silvers and one bronze medal in the first five days of competition, and you see her reaction and read an article about her on the NBC Sports website.

Coan On The Mend

One athlete noticeably missing from the world championships was McKenzie Coan. She was set to add to her 16 career medals at this year’s competition but had to withdraw just prior to the team leaving because of illness. Coan explained in an Instagram post that she’d been diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy as the result of a bad respiratory and ear infection. The palsy has affected one side of her face, and although she’s expected to make a full recovery, time worked against her.

“Anyone who knows me knows how heavily this decision has weighed on my heart,” she wrote. “I wish that time and healing were more on my side. Still, I’m choosing to look for the positives in this situation — I’m showing signs of recovery daily, slowly finding my routine again and looking forward to the future with all the hope and optimism I can.”

Mama On A Mission

Also missing was Mallory Weggemann, who gave birth to her first child this spring. She recently posted about her competition goals now as she eyes Paris 2024:

“Charlotte Ann, you are my north star baby girl and every day you inspire me to the best version of myself in all I do. I cannot wait for the path we are going to pave this next year — showcasing that it’s okay to do it different, it’s okay to shake up the routine and it’s okay to do it your own way.” 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.