Adin Williams Is Doing The Work As He Chases Paralympic Dream

by Chrös McDougall

Adin Williams competes in butterfly at the 2023 Para Swimming World Series – USA. (Photo: Jayme Halbritter)

Four years ago, the transition from club to college swimming helped Adin Williams take the next step in his competitive career.


Now the 22-year-old from Happy Valley, Oregon, is hoping the facilities and staff at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center can help propel him to the next level.


Williams, who has hypochondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism, has begun spending more and more time at the Colorado Springs, Colorado, campus, where elite athletes from multiple sports train year-round for the Olympics and Paralympics. It’s proven to be a natural fit for Williams as he chases his own Paralympic dreams.


“The fact that the Paralympic Games are going to be in Los Angeles five years from now is very motivating to me,” Williams said. “In fact, I almost feel that’s what’s keeping me in the program, and it would just mean a lot to me to be able to go to Paris next year and certainly go to Los Angeles near my home five years from now.”


Growing up in Happy Valley, which is a suburb of Portland, Williams first took swim lessons at age 3.


“I must have liked swimming so much that I got into it completely when I was about 10 years at a recreational level,” Williams said.


Not long after that, he was competing in races for his Gladstone High School team.


The sport didn’t always come naturally, though. Williams’ condition created mental and physical challenges, and even a short swim across the pool left him exhausted early on. It was during these formative years that he began learning about the Olympics and Paralympics, though, and the dream of one day competing internationally kept him motivated.


By the time he reached high school, Williams was beginning to stand out from the pack and earn state titles in his classification. In 2017, he earned his first wins at the Para national championships. Then, prior to his senior year in 2018, he made his international debut competing at the IWAS World Youth Games in Ireland, where he won a gold and a silver medal.


His approach to the sport was still more or less recreational at that point. That began to change in the fall of 2019 when he showed up for his freshman year at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. As part of the move, he also joined the Div. III school’s swim team.


“In club I was basically going an hour a day, maybe five days a week,” Williams said. “But now I’ve been going two to four hours a day, six days a week.”


Faster, stronger and more confident, Williams began breaking U.S. records in his S6 classification. The turning point, he said, was at the 2019 Para national championships when he qualified for the national team for the first time.


“That’s when things really started to change,” he said.


In an interview with Swimming World magazine around that time, his coach, Natalie Turner, praised his work ethic.


“He really put a lot into this season, just joining a college swim team, getting into 20-hour a week practices, he is lifting weights, doing yoga with the rest of the team, being a part of our sprint group, he has just adapted to so much in college swimming,” she said. “To see him be so successful is really rewarding.”


Unfortunately, just as the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 were beginning to feel like a possibility, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, ultimately postponing the Paralympics until 2021.


If anything, the setback only motivated him, Turner said at the time.


We just kept talking about how (the pandemic disruptions) just gave us more opportunities to get faster,” she said. “Since then, Adin has had a fire under him that I don’t see dying down anytime soon.”


Williams ultimately missed out on the U.S. team for Tokyo, but his quest for the Paralympics continues.


In April, Williams was in Minneapolis for the latest Para Swimming World Series stop, where he was able to gain more experience competing against international competition. Though he has a fifth year of eligibility remaining if he wants it, he’s considering staying in Colorado Springs for more training.


After all, he’s got it pretty good there.


“It’s a really awesome experience,” he said. “We get to train at altitude and long course meters, which fits perfectly for preparing for competition. We have a dining hall where we get to have all our meals; we don’t have to cook the food ourselves.”


He’s also got a two-bedroom suite in the dorms all to himself, at least for now.


“It’s just a really great experience, both physically and socially,” he said.

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.