Originally created 07/06/06

Obstacles don't hinder swimmer



Paul Sladky's desire to swim is enough to overcome most obstacles.

It was only a matter of months before he was back in the water following shoulder surgery. When doctors told him he had diabetes, the realization did little to affect the hours he spent in the water.

In June, Sladky discovered that the Georgia Games would no longer hold an indoor swimming event for men in his age group, presenting another challenge to his favorite pastime.

"I've been training for this thinking I was going to do the Georgia Games this summer," he said. "I got online about a month ago and finally discovered that there are no short-course master's swimming events, just youth."

Instead of idling by the pool side, Sladky, who would not reveal his age, lobbied officials from the Alabama Sports Festival to allow him to compete in their games - and they agreed.

Sladky walked away from the competition, held in Mobile, Alabama on June 24, with gold medals in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle races, as well as the 100-meter butterfly.

Although he was disqualified due to an illegal kick during a 100-meter breaststroke event, Sladky went on to place first in the 500-meter freestyle.

The event was classified as an exhibition because of a technicality.

Sladky said his love for swimming can be traced back to early childhood memories.

He recalls countless afternoons spent performing underwater flips and stretches at the local YMCA in Iowa where he grew up.

"I just have a feel for the water," Sladky said. "I always have."

His love for swimming was not hindered when he was diagnosed with diabetes about 20 years ago. He said he was already entrenched in a daily routine when the news came that he would have to begin managing his insulin level and exercising regularly.

"It didn't require a lifestyle change," Sladky said. "I just kept exercising, doing what I was doing."

He now wears a pump near his waist that helps him deliver life-sustaining insulin whenever his body requires it. He displays a picture of Olympic gold medalist, and fellow diabetic swimmer Gary Hall Jr, on his refrigerator at home.

Despite the difficulty he encountered with the Georgia Games, Sladky said he plans to enter Saturday's open-water swim event on Lake Lanier. Like most of his decisions when it comes to swimming, he said he's doing it for the love of the sport.

"I'm going to do the open-water swim at the Georgia Games even though I'm not a distance swimmer," Sladky said. "Just for the heck of it."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.