Swimmer Cady Munk overcomes odds - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Swimmer Cady Munk overcomes odds

Posted: Updated: Feb 8, 2011 05:13 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41) -- It is a sport where the grand stage is a great equalizer.

Without many options: float or sink. Forward or backward. Where smooth sailing can feel the gust of failure with one too many ticks of a clock.

For every swimmer, there's a moment everything goes silent. Where toes and goggles face forward, and all that's left is the immersion of one's self into the scary, yet real world of comparison, success and heartbreak.  

That is, at least, the world for most ordinary swimmers.  But Cady Munk isn't like most swimmers.  

And she definitely isn't ordinary.

She doesn't win, but she doesn't lose either.  Because, with an undiagnosed condition similar to Down syndrome, she has just herself to compete against.  

But friend and fellow swimmer Casey Guernsey says Munk does just fine -- and has become the star of the swimming pool.

"Whenever she gets in the water, it's like she's swimming for a state championship," Guernsey says. "She's got all kinds of people around her. People come up to her and ask, ‘What's her name?' By her last lap, everybody starts clapping, and it's just a neat feeling. I get goosebumps whenever she swims."

"I do the best I could and I swim fast and I just try to do it," Munk says.

It all started two years ago, with a crazy idea by a coach and a teammate, for the brand new high school swim team in small-town Henryville, Ind.

"Her mom didn't want her to do it or she didn't think she could," Guernsey says. "So we were like, ‘Just bring her out and we'll see how she can do.'"

Munk's swim coach, David Reynolds, remembers how it all got started.

"Casey's mom talked to a friend – which is Cady's mom," Reynolds says. "She said, ‘Let her go out and try and see how she does. I'm sure she'll be fine.' And it's her little girl. They're a little protective."

Fran Munk, Cady's mom, admits that she wasn't comfortable with the idea at first.

"She really couldn't probably go but just a couple of feet in the water," she said. "So I was waiting for Dave to say, ‘You know Cady, this isn't for you.' And Dave comes out with this big smile on his face and said, ‘We'll see her tomorrow.' And I'm like, ‘Dave, you don't have to do this.' And he was like, ‘No, you'll see by the end of the week, we'll have her swimming.'"

"So I went to practice and I got better and better, and they were like, ‘Whoa – she can do this!'" Cady Munk recalls.

The swim stroke Cady has developed is chaotically perfect; a self-described dog paddle that seems to combine "who-gives-a-care" with "let's-do-this-thing."  But it works -- and it doesn't break any rules for freestyle swimming.

"You're allowed to do any stroke you want in freestyle, as long as you maintain that stroke," Reynolds says. "She's got a breaststroke pull and a freestyle kick. She's never been disqualified so far."

She has to work twice as hard to achieve twice the time. And yet, she does. Because every stroke is one that never should have happened.

"How proud of you of how far she has come?" Fox 41's Pat Doney asks Cady's mother.

"I don't know of words could express it," she replies fighting back tears. "They didn't think she would be able to talk – let alone swim or be part of a team. So it means a great deal."

So Cady Munk continues to swim, four times a week, about a mile a day. Because for her, swimming is just another performance on a chaotically perfect, grand stage.

"The best thing about water is that there are no barriers," said Coach Reynolds. "With swimming, you're out there and you're against the water. Her goal is to improve her time and we push her to improve her time – to get better."

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