With Support From His Big Family, Promising Swimmer Braxton Wong Is Enjoying The Journey

by Chrös McDougall

Braxton Wong poses for a photo on the Team USA set. (Photo by USOPC)

At 17, Braxton Wong isn’t sweating his future.

The homeschooled high school senior-to-be from Clovis, California, knows he wants to stay in his home state for college.

“Somewhere along the beach,” he said.

And he knows that if he keeps swimming like he did at April’s world series stop in Minneapolis, his goal of making a U.S. Paralympic Team might just work itself out.

“I dropped a full second in my 100 fly, so that puts me a lot closer to the cut for Paris,” he said during a break from racing at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center. “So I think if I keep making these one-second cuts, I’ll get really close.”

The teen, who competes for the Clovis Swim Club, still has a ways to go to reach that milestone, but consistent improvement over the past few years has him optimistic.

It’s a journey he’s taking with plenty of support.

Wong is one of 12 children of Bryan and Tamera Wong — joining Breanna, Blythe, Brandon, Bryce, Brady, Brooklyn, Bethany, Bayley, Bella, Beka-Joy and Bennett. Five of them are biological children, while seven were adopted — all from China. In the crew, ranging in age from 10 to 26, Braxton is “in the middle,” he offers, but after checking the math in his head he confirms he’s No. 8.

According to Wong, his parents had initially adopted his oldest sister, and then began fostering others. One day, his sister had an idea.

“My oldest sister just randomly said, ‘Why don’t we take them in as our family instead of helping them?’” Wong said. “So that’s what really sparked my parents’ interest, and then they kept on collecting.”

These days the three oldest siblings are adults and living on their own, but still nearby. The whole crew gets together each week on Sundays.

Like all his adopted siblings, Braxton has a disability. In his case, he was born with a deformed right leg. After living his first three years in an orphanage and foster care, he moved to California and became the newest member of the Wong family. He’s since had his leg amputated above the knee and now uses a prosthetic.

Wong began swimming around his 12th birthday, when his mom enrolled him in a summer program for new swimmers. It was a natural fit.

“I got I think second in a couple events, top 10 in a lot of events, and I was like, ‘OK this is kind of fun, I like swimming,’” Wong said. “So I was like, I want to swim. I started club swimming, and have been ever since.”

Sports are a part of life for many of the Wong kids. One of Braxton’s older brothers, Brandon, competed on the men’s gymnastics team at the University of Iowa. Two of his sisters are Para track and field athletes, running with a local high school. His youngest brother is also a swimmer.

But Braxton is unique in that he’s finding success on the national level.

At the Minneapolis meet, he met the national team standard for the first time. Though he wasn’t selected for this summer’s world championships in Paris, he is holding out hope that he could be a contender for next summer’s Paralympic Games in the same city. Along the way, he’s heard from teammates about the Parapan American Games set for this November in Santiago, Chile.

“They told me that Pan Ams is very similar to the Paralympics, so if I can even make that team, that would be a dream,” Wong said.

Wong got a taste of what high-level swimming could be like last fall, when he attended a training camp at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The teen described the experience as both “amazing” and “very exhausting.”

“We got to hear from a lot of speakers and a lot of providers that live at Colorado Springs, so that was really nice,” Wong said.

The swimmers also learned about how to progress in the sport, and what happens with each new level. Plus, they got to eat at the OPTC’s famous cafeteria.

“My favorite thing that we that we got to do when we were there was the food,” Wong said.

For now, Wong isn’t making plans to move to the Centennial State just yet. Maybe after college, if things in the sport are still going strong. In the meantime, he’s enjoying the ride and hoping for the best.

“I've always wanted to go to the Paralympics,” he said. “Just even going to the Paralympic trials, that would be awesome. But making the team, that'd be so fun.”

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic Movement for since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.