Still Riding Parapan Momentum Carson Sanocki Optimistic For Tokyo

by Ryan Wilson

Carson Sanocki competes at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games. (Photo: Getty Images)

Still riding momentum from the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games, Carson Sanocki is feeling confident for the upcoming Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.


Sanocki is a 22-year-old Para swimmer from Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina. He competed in the 2019 Parapan American Games as part of Team USA’s C swimming team. The “C” designates an athlete’s standing at the national level. 

“I really enjoyed getting the chance to compete (at Parapans),” Sanocki said. “It was my first major international competition, so I really had a good time.”

Right off the bat, the swimmer made his international debut with a splash by setting an American record in the S13 100-meter freestyle with a time of 57.16. 

“The fans in Peru were great,” he said. “They were awesome, a lot of electricity in the atmosphere.”

Sanocki went on to collect five medals, three of them gold. He was nominated for the Best Male Athlete of Lima 2019 alongside Argentinian wheelchair tennis great Gustavo Fernández and Salvadoran powerlifter Herbert Aceituno. 

Sanocki is now in his senior year at Queens University, one of the top NCAA Division II swimming programs in the country. The school entered last season determined to win the national championship for the sixthstraight year. The Royals had 23 event wins and set 11 NCAA Division II records last year. But their bid for a championship was canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

Still, Sanocki is locked in to the goal of achieving a gold medal at the Games.

“It’s been my No. 1 goal most of the time, and it’s sort of something I’ve been working towards and had my focus on,” he said.

Sanocki knows he still has to qualify for the team at the upcoming U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Swimming, scheduled for this July in Minneapolis.

“I just want to make sure I qualify for the team,” he said.

Sanocki competed in short-course races with Queens in December. In the final day of the Wingate Winter Round Robin in Charlotte, Sanocki finished a 200-yard breaststroke in 2:04.31. A day prior, Sanocki and his Queens team won the 200-yard medley relay in 1:29.70.

Sanocki has optic nerve hypoplasia, which causes the underdevelopment of the optic nerves. He does not have much depth perception, and he will count his strokes in the pool.

He knows it will take him five strokes to the 25-meter mark in the pool, six strokes will get him through the next 50, and seven will push him to the last 25. 

“I know my short-course count down to a T,” he said. 

He added: “When I’m counting my strokes, I know if my stroke is being efficient. I know if I’m taking too many strokes that I’m not pulling as much water or something like that, so I need to be efficient.”

Sanocki will graduate from Queens in May with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in sports management. He is not sure what his plan is after school, but he may take a couple years before enrolling in law school.

Sanocki was sure to express his appreciation for Queens coaches Jeff Dugdale, Jon Lau and Mark Lepkowski. Dugdale joined Queens in 2010, and has rapidly brought it into the national spotlight.

Dugdale has been named the Bluegrass Mountain Conference Coach of the Year eight times. He was selected as USA Swimming’s 2019 James “Jimi” Flowers Coach of the Year. The award recognizes coaches “with outstanding inclusion of swimmers with a disability.”Sanocki finished the 2020 season on a high note internationally. He ranked fifth in the 100 SB13 breaststroke and fourth in the men’s SB13 50 breaststroke. 

The Tokyo Games are slated to open Aug. 24.

“I’ve been doing some pretty good things in the pool right now,” Sanocki said. “I’m feeling pretty confident and good.”

Ryan Wilson is a writer and independent documentary filmmaker from Champaign, Illinois. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.