Team USA Olympic Swimmers Visit Troops, Connect with Special Olympians in North Carolina
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
By Joseph Andrew Lee
Heroes can lift spirits.
For Donovan Mouton, a 23-year-old Special Olympian with Down Syndrome, the experience of meeting his hero — Olympic gold
medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte — was a moment he’ll never forget.
Donovan is the son of retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer 4
Kenneth Mouton and his wife, Robin, who happens to be the local Special
Olympics swim team coach. They live just off Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville,
As part of USA Swimming’s Athlete Partnership Program, four
National Team swimmers — Lochte, Tyler Clary, Claire Donahue and Micah Lawrence
— took part in an April 12 USO event to encourage kids and adults to take up
swimming as a healthy and positive activity. The Olympians taught swim clinics
to several groups of wounded warriors and Special Olympics athletes at the Wallace
Creek Fitness Center aboard Camp Lejeune.
“One of things that I enjoy most about being an Olympic athlete is giving back
to the community,” Lochte wrote in an email. “I really enjoy doing swim
clinics and spending time with the kids working with them in the pool. I am so
thankful for all of the men and women who fight for our country and appreciate
the sacrifices they make for us.”
Lochte is Donovan’s hero. His favorite strokes are Donovan’s
“When the Olympics was on in 2012, if there was a swimming
event we were watching it,” Robin Mouton said. “Whoever had a really good
night, Donovan would go to his room and pull up YouTube videos to watch the
swimmers’ techniques under water.
“I remember there was an interview with Ryan on television
and Donovan was just in a trance,” she said. “He became a big fan at that
moment and as the Olympics progressed he continued to watch Ryan in every
When Robin heard Lochte would be at the base as a part of
the USO clinic, she kept it a secret from Donovan to see if he would recognize
Lochte took their group first into the water, and when
Donovan saw his face and realized who he was getting lessons from, “his eyes
lit up,” Lochte wrote.
The participants worked on freestyle and backstroke and at
the end of the clinic they took a group picture. Lochte showed Donovan one of
his Olympic medals and even let him wear it. Donovan gave Lochte a big hug in
When the athletes finally had to leave to go eat, Donovan
was the last person left on the pool deck. Lochte noticed Donovan standing
alone and walked over and handed him his cap and goggles. Donovan wore that cap
all the way home.
“It was really touching that Ryan did that,” Robin Mouton
said. “It meant a lot to the [other] parents, to me, and of course to Donovan.
“It is hard to express what the clinic meant to Donovan,”
she said. “People joke that if you could have one special event in your life
then you could die a happy person. Donovan has been
fortunate enough to meet some famous country musicians. He even has a
picture of Taylor Swift with her arm around him. He met his favorite
group, Rascal Flatts, because of his knowledge of the band. But nothing
ever came close to touching his excitement the day of the swim clinic. That was
truly a day he will forever cherish.”
“I have always appreciated our military for fighting for our
country,” Lochte wrote. “They make so many sacrifices for our freedom. However,
actually being there on the base at Camp Lejeune made me appreciate them even
more, and working with the Special Olympics kids was very inspiring … Donovan
really touched my heart. That moment was very special to me.”
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