Big Goals Highlight Trevor Lukacsko’s First Year On The U.S. National Team

by Joanne C. Gerstner

Trevor Lukacsko on the podium at the 2022 U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships. (Photo: Laura Wolff)

It didn’t take much evaluation to realize that Trevor Lukacsko was destined to swim.


Lukacsko was just 2 years old when he came to the U.S. from Ukraine, adopted by a family who wanted to provide for his complex needs. His new family started the journey of helping him through a variety of medical and cognitive issues, stemming from fetal alcohol syndrome.


The pool soon became an outlet to help him develop new motor skills and grow in confidence. His parents, Shea and Erik, hoped he would be happy and stimulated in a new environment.


Little did they know, Trevor would find a whole new personality –– and a more open spirit –– in the pool.


“He was like a fish, he submerged himself and it was a natural thing for him,” said Erik. “It was a shallow pool, and he was put between two other little girls. He just put his head down, and he looked so comfortable.


“Eventually, he took off underwater, kicking, doggy paddling. We hoped it would help him, because he needed so much love and structure, and it turns the water was a whole lot more than that. It’s his space.”


Swimming remains an important constant in Trevor’s life. The 20-year-old is a newcomer to the U.S. national team, having recently been named to the C squad, and he’s setting big goals, particularly looking toward the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.


Lukacsko, who competes in the S14 classification, won two events — the 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter freestyle — and was third in the 100-meter butterfly at last December’s U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina.


He is now putting in a near-daily training schedule to improve as fast as possible.


However, Lukacsko also knows his progress will not be linear, thanks to his complex health challenges, which affect his motor functions and coordination. Over time, Lukacsko has learned to work through what his body presents.


“This is just my start,” Lukacsko, a native of Bernardsville, New Jersey, said. “I have bigger things to come.”


Lukacsko is working out, in the pool and on land, to improve his technique and drop time. His target events are the 200 IM, fly and free, and he could add more. He also has shown strength in breaststroke, crediting his larger-than-average hands and feet on his 5-foot-7 frame.


He is focused on growth, wanting to see how much he can improve over the next year. Lukacsko plans to travel for a few weeks to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to prepare for the Para Swimming World Series meet this April in Minneapolis.


“I want to get to the A national team, and then my next goal is Paris, I really want to do that,” Lukacsko said. “I want to be there.”


He is the third youngest of 10 in his family, all adopted from Ukraine. His mom, Shea, said Trevor’s growth and improvement over the years has been significant.


“He is just a normal kid, when you get down to it,” she said. “He wasn’t able to swim for a while, after a heart issue, and we could really see how down he was. When he got back into who he was, he was comfortable being himself.”


Lukacsko is choosing not to work right now, for the first time in years, in order to concentrate on his training. He makes time for his four puppies, and to enjoy being a big fan of motocross.


Swimming is the part of his life that brings immense joy, and Lukacsko is looking at ways to become entrepreneurial with his talent. He’s already made close connections on the national team and looks to teammate Jamal Hill, a 2020 Paralympic bronze medalist, for inspiration in and out of the pool.


“Jamal has made his own business, Swim Up Hill, and I really like to see what he does,” Lukacsko said. “This has motivated me to get it done and be the best. It’s a big deal if I can go to the Paralympics.


“We will see what happens after that with my life. This is the top thing in my life right now, there is nothing else besides swimming, because it means a lot to me.”

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.