Lucas McCrory, the younger brother of U.S. diving Olympian Nick McCrory, has his own Olympics dream. Lucas narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Paralympics swim team and is already thinking about the 2016 Games.
Lucas McCrory has dwarfism.
“That’s who I am,” he said. “I’m comfortable with that.”
McCrory’s condition is genetic, although it was not apparent at birth. His head and trunk are average in size. He is 5-feet tall, but his limbs are disproportionately small.
His smile is exceptionally broad though.
“Smiley?” answered Andrew Harbuck, Lucas McCrory’s swim coach, when asked about him. “He is always smiling and always having fun. He is a bit of a goof, but he has the ability to get really focused and intense. But even then, he is smiling.”
“He is a wonderful kid,” Durham Friends athletic director Alex Gordon said. “He is very unassuming, very engaging. He always says hello.”
McCrory said it was difficult at times when he was growing up. It was easy for other children to label him without ever getting to know him. There were hurtful words and deeds along the way.
“It bothered me when I was younger but not any more,” he said. “I am determined that I am going to accept who I am and enjoy my life.”
Ana McCrory, Nick and Lucas’ mom, said her younger son is a tremendous competitor and athlete. And he is courageous, just like Nick, who is among the medal favorites in the London Games in the 10-meter individual and synchronized platform diving. Nick McCrory will dive Monday in the synchronized event with partner David Boudia.
Ana McCrory still cannot watch Nick McCrory perform some dives, preferring to watch them later on videotape, and marvels at how he blocks out distractions to perform his best.
But she marvels, too, at how Lucas McCrory competes and performs.
“When he was younger, he was a great soccer player and a great basketball player,” she said. “But the other children kept getting bigger. But he works so hard.”
Paralympics has been good for her son, Ana McCrory said.
“The competition has given him confidence and helped him to accept who he is,” she said. “He gets to do great things.”
Lucas said, “I get to do what I love to do.”
The Paralympics’ roots are in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized a competition for English World War II veterans who had spinal cord injuries. His goal was to create an elite sports competition, similar to the Olympics, for people with disabilities.
The first official Paralympics were held in 1960 in conjunction with the Rome Olympics. The competition was still limited to athletes in wheelchairs but was open to everyone, not just war veterans. Gradually, the Paralympics have expanded to include athletes with other disabilities.
Long jumper Alexis Gillette, an Athens Drive High graduate, and swimmer Tucker Dupree, a Garner High grad, are both blind and are expected to be in medal contention during this year’s competition in London on Aug. 29 through Sept. 5.
Lucas had a strong meet at the U.S. Paralympic Trials in Bismarck, N.D. He set personal bests in all six of his events and swam faster in the finals than in qualifying in every event.
“He was tremendous,” said Andrew Harbuck, the coach of the Duke Aquatics team where Lucas trains. “He was ranked among the top 30s in the world going into the meet and came out ranked among the top 20s.”
Harbuck doesn’t know how close Lucas came to qualifying for this year’s Paralympics. He set personal bests in the 50, 100 and 400-meter freestyles, the 50 and 100 breaststroke and the 50 butterfly and was second in the 100 free. But the selection process is complicated and subjective.
Athletes are placed in different categories according to their disability and are classified by the degree their disability impairs them.
Lucas is an S7 swimmer in the Les Autres (The Others) category, which includes dwarfism. The S7 puts him in the middle of the scale. A severely impaired swimmer could be classified in S1, for example, and a swimmer with less impairment might be an S14.
“Before the meet I told Lucas that there was a very good chance that he wouldn’t be selected,” Harbuck said. “But he swam great. He dropped 14 seconds off his previous best in the 400. He swam well enough that he could have been selected.”
‘So much courage’
The trials were an inspiration for Lucas, his coach and his mother.
“To see someone with no arms and no legs jump into a pool. So much courage,” she said.
Ana Lucas had no idea what to expect when a friend, Michael Hughes, suggested that Lucas participate in Paralympics events. Harbuck said there was no way that McCrory could swim as fast as many of the competitors he faced in high school competition.
“We talked a lot then about trying to go faster and improving,” Harbuck said. “He was fine with that and handled it well. But in the Paralympics the field the field is more level.”
The 2016 Paralympic Games may be a reality in the long term, but the more immediate goal is watching Nick dive on the biggest platform in the world.
Soon after returning from London, Lucas will enroll at Guilford College. The Greensboro school doesn’t have a men’s swim team, but Lucas hopes to change that.
“A men’s college swim team,” he said, “not a team just for people with disabilities.”
He has accomplished harder objectives.