Name: Tharon Drake
Sport: Para Swimming
Events: 100-meter breaststroke, 200m breaststroke
Current Residence: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Hometown: Hobbs, N.M.
College: New Mexico Junior College; Eastern New Mexico University (online)
Weight: 165 lbs
- Current U.S. record-holder in his class (S11) in 50-yard freestyle, 50- and 100-yd backstroke, 50- and 100-yd breaststroke, 200-yd IM (short course); 50- and 100-meter breaststroke (short course); 50-, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke (long course)
- 2013: Named to U.S. Paralympics Swimming World Championship Team
- 2013: Named to U.S. Paralympics Swimming National B Team
- 2013 Spring Can-Am: 1st place in 100m breaststroke, 100m freestyle, 50m freestyle, 200m IM and 400m freestyle
- 2013 Jimi Flowers Classic: 1st place in 100m breaststroke, 50m freestyle, 50m breaststroke
- 2012 U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials: 1st place in 100m breaststroke, 100m backstroke and 200m breaststroke
- 2012: Named as London 2012 Paralympic Games alternate
Drake is a graduate of Hobbs High School in Hobbs, N.M., where his father is the head coach of the men’s swim team. Drake was competitive at the state level as a sighted swimmer and continued to improve even after complications from routine vaccinations at age 14 resulted in severe memory loss and permanent loss of eyesight. Though Drake was just a freshman when he lost his vision, he remained a member of the Hobbs High School swim team until his graduation. Drake now uses his sense of hearing to know when to flip-turn, listening for the sound of waves against the pool wall. When swimming in pools that have a removable bulkhead instead of a permanent wall, Drake has a person on deck tap him with a cane to indicate the end of a lap. Drake was named as an alternate for the U.S. team competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games; he applied for residency at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs the night the London roster was announced.
“For me, it was either come [to the OTC] and make the team for Rio, or don’t come and play games again, fifty-fifty chance for Rio,” Drake said. “I didn’t want to take the chance.”
In April, Drake swam to five first-place finishes at the Spring Can-Am in Minneapolis, Minn. He also finished first in three events at the Jimi Flowers Classic, which was held at the USOTC in Colorado Springs in June. Drake is now the U.S. record-holder in several short and long-course distances for breaststroke; in August, he represented the U.S. at the 2013 U.S. Paralympic Swimming World Championships. While living and training at the OTC, Drake takes classes online full-time through Eastern New Mexico University and volunteers with students at the local school for the blind. In addition to swimming, Drake enjoys playing music on the piano and guitar and playing bridge with his church group.