“Swimmers take your mark!” echoed over the loud speakers as the swimmers anxiously waited for the buzzer to sound. The seconds before a race are full of adrenaline, but for Donovan Mouton, this is the moment he has been training for. This is the moment that he loves.
When Mouton first started swimming, he could barely swim freestyle. But that did not stop him. With practice and determination he believed he could achieve anything he set his mind to. Once he learned one stroke, he was on to learning the next one. His favorite stroke, butterfly, may be one of the hardest to learn, but Mouton was determined to master it.
Watching him swim, it’s clear just how comforting he finds the water now. That comfort has allowed him to take his skills to the next level. Now, 16 years later, he has won over 40 medals competing in Special Olympics swimming.
“Swimming is my favorite” said Mouton, “I can do golf; I can do equestrian; I can do flag football… I like doing different sports, but swimming is my biggest passion.”
Competing at Summer Games in Raleigh has become the pinnacle of his Special Olympics career. Like his idol, Michael Phelps, as soon as Mouton hits the wall after swimming a race, he looks up to see his time. The desire to improve after each competition keeps him focused, preparing him for each event.
In 2014, Mouton was invited to a clinic at Camp Lejeune. To his surprise, Olympic swimmers, Ryan Lochte and Rebecca Soni, were assisting at the clinic. Watching the two athletes swim at the 2012 Olympics in London was one of the highlights of that year, but meeting them in person was like a dream for Mouton. Not only did he get to shake hands with two of his personal heroes, he was able to watch Soni swim breaststroke.
“She’s real good” Mouton said, “I like how she does her arms and legs at the same time. I learned a lot from her.”
After being given Lochte’s signature swim cap and goggles and wearing one of Lochte’s gold medals, a moment Mouton will never forget, he received priceless advice from the two swimmers.
“Never give up and just keep swimming was what they told me,” explained Mouton.
Mouton has translated the advice given to him by Lochte and Soni, along with his own determination, to his teammates. This led to Mouton being selected as team captain of his Special Olympics Onslow County swim team, a title in which he takes great pride.
“I love being team captain and always show concern and care for my teammates” expressed Mouton.
He helps his teammates if they have any questions, because he wants them to succeed. By taking practices as seriously as competitions, he sets a good example for his teammates. He even helps the coaches by leading warm-ups prior to practice.
“I don’t like to let my teammates down” Mouton said. “I try to make sure I’m doing my best, so they can try to do their best, too.”
Being a team captain can be a lot of pressure, but Mouton handles it well. Whenever he doubts his skills—in or out of the pool—he just remembers Lochte and Soni’s advice and it helps focus him. Whatever happens, never give up and just keep swimming!