Gioffreda Siblings Connor, Megan Gear Up For First International Competition Together At Parapans
by Karen Price
Megan Gioffreda was the first to learn she’d made the U.S. team that will travel to Chile for the 2023 Parapan American Games next month.
She naturally assumed her older brother Connor, a fellow swimmer who lives at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had gotten the same email. Then he called.
“He said, ‘Yo, did you get the email? Because I don’t see anything. What’s going on?’” she said.
Said Connor: “I was like, ‘Am I not going?’”
A quick phone call to U.S. Paralympics Swimming cleared everything up. Connor’s email had gone to his work address, which he hadn’t checked. Now, the siblings are preparing to compete internationally together for the first time — and Megan’s first international meet ever — at the last major competition before next summer’s Paralympic Games in Paris.
Connor Gioffreda, 24, is the oldest of four siblings. Nearly eight years younger, Megan is the youngest. Both were born with a form of dwarfism.
Connor played a number of sports growing up but didn’t start swimming until he was 15 and learned about the opportunities to compete at a high level through Para swimming.
“Our mom knew people who told her about it, and they were training to go to Rio at the time, and I said, ‘I guess I can give it a shot,’” he said. “It’s been off to the races ever since.”
Growing up watching her big brother setting American records and going off to compete around the country and even the world inspired Megan.
“It’s just cool to brag about your older brother, like, ‘Oh, he’s going to Peru and swimming against international athletes,’ like it’s just normal,” said Megan, who lives with their family in Timonium, Maryland. “But also, it’s not normal. It’s really cool and really amazing and he’s worked his butt off since he was 15.”
Megan began swimming at the age of 8, and just recently made her first national team. With that came her first trip to the USOPTC for a camp, and the chance to train alongside her brother. It’s one of the most memorable moments of her career so far.
“He’ll tell you, I probably asked more than 100 questions because I was pretty lost, but Connor guided me through it,” she said. “It was really cool.”
Both have big goals for Parapans.
Connor has always been more of a distance swimmer, but as he’s gotten older, he said, it’s gotten more difficult to have the results he wants swimming in prelims in the morning and then finals in the evening in the longer distances. Over the past few months, he’s still been swimming distance but focusing more on sprints. He’s hoping to get qualifying times for Paris and move up in the world rankings in those events to help earn his place on the Paralympic Team.
“So far it’s been excelling in practice,” said Connor, who’ll be competing in six events in Santiago. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens in Chile.”
Megan, who’s always been more of a sprinter, is competing in five events. She’s looking for her first international competition to also be her best.
“It would be really, really cool to have Connor and I both get a medal,” she said. “But I think my No. 1 priority is lifetime bests in my events and possibly qualifying times for Paris.”
Megan has dreamed of the Paralympics her whole life, including the part where she walks into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony, her brother by her side.
“But if I don’t make the (2024) team and Connor does, I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader,” she said.
Connor feels the same.
“I visualize when they’re selecting the team and both our names are called,” he said. “I don’t recall a brother-sister duo in the same sport going to a Games together. In the same classification. That would probably be the first time in history that’s ever happened. But if my name is not called and hers is, I’ll be her biggest supporter. I’ll make sure she maintains her training and stays on top of everything. I’ll be the person she can lean on for any guidance or anything she needs, and I’ll tell her, ‘Listen, I know I won’t be going, but you’ll hear me yelling from across the pond.’ But I want us both to go. I want that to be a moment for both of us.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to USParaSwimming.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.