Jamal Hill, a Paralympic medalist recognized by United Nations, works to be one with water

Jamal Hill

Given Jamal Hill‘s unique swimming story, it is no surprise that the 27-year-old doesn’t just stow his Paralympic medal in a typical place like on a mantle or inside a sock drawer.

Asked its location, the 6-foot-4 Hill let out a belly laugh.

“At this very moment,” he said, “my Paralympic medal is in the glove box in my car.”

Hill, who dropped out of Hiram College, a Division III program in Ohio, with a dream to become a professional, Olympic swimmer, lives by a Bruce Lee mantra.

“The goal is to be one with the water,” Hill said in a ready room at last month’s U.S. Paralympics National Championships in Charlotte. “So that’s pretty much what I’m always thinking about, man. Just trying to — air quote — create my own style, but really have absolutely no style.”

What’s clear is there is no swimmer with a story like Hill’s. At the start of the last Paralympic cycle, Hill was still keeping his Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) diagnosis from age 10 a secret — “living in denial about my disability” — with an end goal of the Olympic Games.

CMT is a hereditary neurological condition that can result in progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation in the body. In swimming, CMT put him at a disadvantage off the blocks, losing up to a meter to a training partner by the time he splashed.

By the close of the last quadrennium, Hill was sponsored by Speedo and leaving Tokyo with a 50m freestyle bronze medal at the Paralympic Games. He followed that by taking silver at last year’s world championships. Hill’s progression would seemingly make him target gold at this year’s worlds and perhaps the 2024 Paris Games.

That is far from his sole focus, however.

“You can’t just be doing it for the medal,” he said. “We’ve all seen it time and again. When people reach the heights of the sport, when they finally get that gold medal, and then it’s like, well, you mean to tell me this piece of metal isn’t going to fill that void of emptiness inside of me? And then it’s all downhill from there.”

Hill has ambitions beyond the four-lane, 25-yard pool where he trains in Pasadena, California. He runs his own pro team, the Swim Up Hill Victors, with six regulars as well as guests cycling in.

This past September, Hill was named by the United Nations as one of 17 worldwide young change-makers leading efforts to “combat the world’s most pressing issues” and achieve “sustainable development goals.”

Credit the recognition to Swim Up Hill, the non-profit he founded with a goal to teach one million people per year how to swim (actor Terry Crews was an early graduate). Hill said it had 3,000 pupils last year and is already locked in to reach at least 12,000 people this year through partnerships with 55 YMCAs, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Los Angeles and more international programs.

The plan is to quadruple that number annually over the next several years and be over a million in 2028, the year Los Angeles hosts the Olympics and Paralympics. By then, Hill and his coach, Wilma Wong, hope that one of the swimmers at the Games is a person of color who learned to swim through Up Hill.

It’s ambitious, but consider the 54-year-old Wong’s story, too. She was never a competitive swimmer. She didn’t start instructing swimmers on technique until 2016, when, as a mental performance coach, she added timing athletes with a watch to her duties. She had no experience guiding an Olympic or Paralympic-level swimmer when she met Hill in 2017.

Wong supported Hill’s initial goal to go from a Division III dropout to the Olympics, but things began to change when Wong saw Hill using his arms to drag his legs out of his car and the pool.

“She pretty much confronted me, and I kind of came out of the closet [about my CMT diagnosis] to her,” Hill said.

Wong suggested the Paralympics. Hill rebuffed.

“I definitely will not be doing that because of the stigma surrounding disability,” he remembered. “Who wants to feel like other people are looking down on them, right? That’s a stigma that we’re constantly battling in society.”

Hill changed his mind a few months later when a British swimmer visited and, separate from Wong, also suggested the Paralympics. The coach called it divine intervention.

“No one else has said anything about it in 12 years,” Hill said. “I’m a person of faith. I believe in God, the spirit of the universe. And I’m just like, well, this seems like a viable opportunity for me to continue to pursue this dream [to be a professional swimmer], to make it a reality. Let me swallow my ego, swallow my pride. Let me see what this is about.”

In 2018, Hill won the 50m and 100m frees in his division at his first U.S. Paralympics Nationals. At the same meet, he said a family member told him that Grover Evans, believed to be the first Black swimmer on a U.S. Paralympic team, was his great cousin.

In 1977, Evans fell asleep while driving, swerved into a ditch, flipped over several times and was pronounced dead twice at a hospital before waking up, according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. He survived as a quadriplegic and, 15 years later, made his first of three Paralympic teams at age 40. He was 56 at his last Games in 2008. Evans died in 2017 at 65.

In 2021, Hill signed with Speedo a month before the Paralympic trials. Not only had he yet to make the team for Tokyo, he also had yet to be classified to be eligible for the Games.

Even after Hill flew to Brazil and checked off classification, then broke the American 50m free record at trials, Wong said the goal at the Games was simply to make the final. “It was a long shot to medal,” she said. But Wong said Hill thrives under pressure. In the Paralympic final, he lowered his American record again and snagged the bronze.

Hill became the second Black American swimmer in recent history to win a Paralympic medal after Curtis Lovejoy, a four-time medalist between 2000 and 2004. The USOPC could not confirm if anybody won a medal before Lovejoy did.

Then at this past June’s world championships, Hill shared 50m free silver behind Italian Simone Barlaam, who equaled his world record and won by a whopping 1.66 seconds. Barlaam had defeated Hill by less than a half-second at the Paralympics.

Hill’s work is clearly cut out in a race where he swims for 25 seconds while taking one breath. But that is not all he is striving for.

“This piece of metal is not going to make you a better human being,” Hill said. “It’s about the person that you become along the process.”

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Faith Kipyegon breaks second world record in eight days; three WRs fall in Paris


Kenyan Faith Kipyegon broke her second world record in as many Fridays as three world records fell at a Diamond League meet in Paris.

Kipyegon, a 29-year-old mom, followed her 1500m record from last week by running the fastest 5000m in history.

She clocked 14 minutes, 5.20 seconds, pulling away from now former world record holder Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, who ran 14:07.94 for the third-fastest time in history. Gidey’s world record was 14:06.62.

“When I saw that it was a world record, I was so surprised,” Kipyegon said, according to meet organizers. “The world record was not my plan. I just ran after Gidey.”

Kipyegon, a two-time Olympic 1500m champion, ran her first 5000m in eight years. In the 1500m, her primary event, she broke an eight-year-old world record at the last Diamond League meet in Italy last Friday.

Kipyegon said she will have to talk with her team to decide if she will add the 5000m to her slate for August’s world championships in Budapest.

Next year in the 1500m, she can bid to become the second person to win the same individual Olympic track and field event three times (joining Usain Bolt). After that, she has said she may move up to the 5000m full-time en route to the marathon.

Kipyegon is the first woman to break world records in both the 1500m and the 5000m since Italian Paola Pigni, who reset them in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m over a nine-month stretch in 1969 and 1970.

Full Paris meet results are here. The Diamond League moves to Oslo next Thursday, live on Peacock.

Also Friday, Ethiopian Lamecha Girma broke the men’s 3000m steeplechase world record by 1.52 seconds, running 7:52.11. Qatar’s Saif Saaeed Shaheen set the previous record in 2004. Girma is the Olympic and world silver medalist.

Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway ran the fastest two-mile race in history, clocking 7:54.10. Kenyan Daniel Komen previously had the fastest time of 7:58.61 from 1997 in an event that’s not on the Olympic program and is rarely contested at top meets. Ingebrigtsen, 22, is sixth-fastest in history in the mile and eighth-fastest in the 1500m.

Olympic and world silver medalist Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic won the 400m in 49.12 seconds, chasing down Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who ran her first serious flat 400m in four years. McLaughlin-Levrone clocked a personal best 49.71 seconds, a time that would have earned bronze at last year’s world championships.

“I’m really happy with the season opener, PR, obviously things to clean up,” said McLaughlin-Levrone, who went out faster than world record pace through 150 meters. “My coach wanted me to take it out and see how I felt. I can’t complain with that first 200m.”

And the end of the race?

“Not enough racing,” she said. “Obviously, after a few races, you kind of get the feel for that lactic acid. So, first race, I knew it was to be expected.”

McLaughlin-Levrone is expected to race the flat 400m at July’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, where the top three are in line to make the world team in the individual 400m. She also has a bye into August’s worlds in the 400m hurdles and is expected to announce after USATF Outdoors which race she will contest at worlds.

Noah Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 100m in 9.97 seconds into a headwind. Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy was seventh in 10.21 in his first 100m since August after struggling through health issues since the Tokyo Games.

Lyles wants to race both the 100m and the 200m at August’s worlds. He has a bye into the 200m. The top three at USATF Outdoors join reigning world champion Fred Kerley on the world championships team. Lyles is the fifth-fastest American in the 100m this year, not counting Kerley, who is undefeated in three meets at 100m in 2023.

Olympic and world silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson won the 800m in 1:55.77, a British record. American Athing Mu, the Olympic and world champion with a personal best of 1:55.04, is expected to make her season debut later this month.

World champion Grant Holloway won the 110m hurdles in 12.98 seconds, becoming the first man to break 13 seconds this year. Holloway has the world’s four best times in 2023.

American Valarie Allman won the discus over Czech Sandra Perkovic in a meeting of the last two Olympic champions. Allman threw 69.04 meters and has the world’s 12 best throws this year.

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Iga Swiatek sweeps into French Open final, where she faces a surprise


Iga Swiatek marched into the French Open final without dropping a set in six matches. All that stands between her and a third Roland Garros title is an unseeded foe.

Swiatek plays 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova in the women’s singles final, live Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

Swiatek, the top-ranked Pole, swept 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-2, 7-6 (7) in Thursday’s semifinal in her toughest test all tournament. Haddad Maia squandered three break points at 4-all in the second set.

Swiatek dropped just 23 games thus far, matching her total en route to her first French Open final in 2020 (which she won for her first WTA Tour title of any kind). After her semifinal, she signed a courtside camera with the hashtag #stepbystep.

“For sure I feel like I’m a better player,” than in 2020, she said. “Mentally, tactically, physically, just having the experience, everything. So, yeah, my whole life basically.”

Swiatek can become the third woman since 2000 to win three French Opens after Serena Williams and Justine Henin and, at 22, the youngest woman to win four total majors since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Muchova upset No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus to reach her first major final.

Muchova, a 26-year-old into the second week of the French Open for the first time, became the first player to take a set off the powerful Belarusian all tournament, then rallied from down 5-2 in the third set to prevail 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5.

Sabalenka, who overcame previous erratic serving to win the Australian Open in January, had back-to-back double faults in her last service game.

“Lost my rhythm,” she said. “I wasn’t there.”

Muchova broke up what many expected would be a Sabalenka-Swiatek final, which would have been the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 match at the French Open since Williams beat Maria Sharapova in the 2013 final.

Muchova is unseeded, but was considered dangerous going into the tournament.

In 2021, she beat then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make the Australian Open semifinals, then reached a career-high ranking of 19. She dropped out of the top 200 last year while struggling through injuries.

“Some doctors told me maybe you’ll not do sport anymore,” Muchova said. “It’s up and downs in life all the time. Now I’m enjoying that I’m on the upper part now.”

Muchova has won all five of her matches against players ranked in the top three. She also beat Swiatek in their lone head-to-head, but that was back in 2019 when both players were unaccomplished young pros. They have since practiced together many times.

“I really like her game, honestly,” Swiatek said. “I really respect her, and she’s I feel like a player who can do anything. She has great touch. She can also speed up the game. She plays with that kind of freedom in her movements. And she has a great technique. So I watched her matches, and I feel like I know her game pretty well.”

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