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Thursday, September 2, 2021

INGLEWOOD—Inglewood resident Jamal Hill won the bronze medal in the men's 50-meter freestyle S9 classification in the Paralympics Sunday in Tokyo, breaking his own American record.

"What I was thinking in the race was just go," Hill said. "I was just really thinking to go. I had to move my arms as fast as I can, kick the legs as fast as I can, and keep my butt and core tight with my head down.

"When I touched the wall, I was scared to turn around because I knew it was tight, but when I did and I heard one of the coaches yell out my name I know it was safe to turnaround.

Hill was timed in 25.19 seconds, 0.15 of a second ahead of Australian William Martin. Simone Barlaam of Italy won in 24.71. Denis Tarasov of the Russian Paralympic Committee was second in 24.99 at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

"It's kind of surreal," Hill, a 26-year-old first-time Paralympian, said after winning his first Paralympics medal. "I'm really excited to watch the playback of the race. It was a personal best for me and I had to come in and leave it all in the pool. It feels really good.

"It's been five years coming. I was a long shot and here we are, I'm on the podium. I'm going to share the podium with great athletes."

In accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code and a December 2020 decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Russian athletes in the Paralympics are participating as neutral athletes of its national federation.

There are 13 classes of athletes in para swimming. The lower the number the more severe impact of activity limitation an athlete experiences according to designated classifiers.

The S9 classification is for swimmers who generally have severe weakness in one leg. This class includes a number of different disabilities including people with amputations and cerebral palsy.

Hill developed a love for swimming through a "Mommy & Me" swim class at the Westchester YMCA.

When he was 10 years old, Hill was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a hereditary neurological condition that can result in progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation in the body.

After his paralysis and recovery, Hill's parents encouraged him to use Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease as an opportunity to overcome challenges and inspire others.

Hill pushed through the pain and fear of being seen and treated differently and swam for Serra High School in Gardena, receiving a swimming scholarship to Hiram College in Northeast Ohio.

In 2018 Hill founded the Swim Up Hill Foundation, which provides specialized swim education tailored to the specific needs of low-to-middle income communities which continue to be disproportionately affected by high drowning rates. Hill has set a goal of having the foundation teach one million people around the world to swim.