Grondin Brings Home the Gold

Sitting at his kitchen table, Tom Grondin models the breaststroke, his hands together in a praying position before extending straightforward and letting go into respective sideways directions, then looping back around, tightly to his sides to maximize aerodynamics and finally, back into the original position for the next go-round.

            Only Grondin doesn’t conduct his show-and-tell in slow motion, the 17-year-old from Marion demonstrates his swimming mechanics at what looks more like his pace in competition. He does so fluidly.

            It’s no wonder, Grondin has been swimming since third or fourth grade. Swimming isn’t the only sport he participates in as a person on the autism spectrum, but it’s one where he excels.

            “If he’s doing freestyle, he’ll dive in and he’ll go the first six or seven, eight strokes without breathing … and then come up and breathe,” said Leo Grondin, Tom’s father.

            Tom’s abilities were on display for a larger audience at Harvard University from June 7 through June 9 at the Massachusetts Special Olympics Summer Games.

            Representing the Sandwich Sharks, Grondin won an individual gold medal at the games in the 100-yard Freestyle. His personal best won a silver medal in the 100 Individual Medley (Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle), and he earned his second gold medal of the games as a member of the Sharks’ 4×50 relay team.

            Asked the best part of swimming, Grondin didn’t hesitate to say, “Freestyle.” He was also eager to say he prefers swimming “in the pool” as opposed to the ocean. Grondin says no one has ever trashed-talked him in competition; the competitors in Special Olympics and in his YMCA competitions converse but practice good sportsmanship.

            Tom began summer school on Monday at Old Rochester Regional High School, where he is a rising senior. He participates in multiple sports, including basketball and helped the Bulldogs’ Unified team get the better of Tri-Town police and fire departments. He has also competed in Unified track and field, running the 400 and throwing the shot put and the javelin.

            Having taken lessons at the Old Colony (Middleborough) YMCA with Niko Duarte, Tom competes with the Gleason Family (Wareham) YMCA Riptides swim team, which has a motto, “Everyone swims, everyone wins.”

            Tom’s older brother Lee (ORR Class of 2023) attends Roger Williams University where he studies Marine Biology.

            The Grondin family expresses “huge” appreciation to all of Tom’s supporters “who provided so much encouragement and well wishes that helped him achieve such success this year” and look forward to next season and more personal-best times in the pool.

By Mick Colageo

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