For best friends Julia Gaffney, Mikaela Jenkins The Paralympic Drive is a journey that is best enjoyed together

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The ironic thing is that when they tell it, they don’t share as many interests outside of swimming.

“We’re very different people, but I think opposites attract,” said Jenkins. “We both get on very well, but we have very different tastes when it comes to hobbies and music and such.”

“I think we’ll even out,” said Gaffney.

The real contrast is how they train, in a kind of “fire and ice”. Gaffney is the serious, hard-driving competitor, while Jenkins is more of a revealing, fun-loving counterpart. And that is where they may have made their greatest contribution to one another.

“Sometimes I get really serious in the water and Mikaela is a little more relaxed,” said Gaffney. “And it somehow makes me laugh and reminds me to have fun training too.”

“Julia is the toughest swimmer I’ve ever met,” said Jenkins. “And I often tend to be a little too relaxed. When I see her pushing really hard, I think, “‘OK, I have to pick this up.'”

The two got to know their families. While Jenkins has only one sibling in a younger brother, Gaffney grew up with four brothers and one sister, admitting that “growing up with lots of boys can be a lot”.

Having an exuberant friend like Jenkins is certainly a different dimension than this upbringing.

“Mikaela has such a fun, energetic personality,” said Gaffney. “She’s just very lively and that’s what I love about her.”

That year, the couple spent nearly three months together at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, with Jenkins from Indiana visiting and living next to her friend. It’s been a month since they split as they get ready to face the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials on Jan.

The goal of reaching the Paralympics is about to become reality.

“I think it would be just crazy because very few people can say they were on a team at the Games, be it the Olympics or the Paralympics, let alone one of your best friends,” said Jenkins. “And having both of them in the same area of ​​the room and experiencing it all is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, so it’s even better to have one of your closest friends with you.”

That opportunity could have come last year had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, which came just around the time they were at that Florida training camp together. But the longer break gave them more time to develop their friendship, their technique in the pool and maybe even increase their chances of success for the games in Tokyo.

“I’m really excited and I’m so excited and I think we’re going to be really great together,” said Gaffney. “We’re going to go in there and just kill it and do our best.”



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