Reventlow Swims To Take Advantage Of A Disadvantage

Reventlow Swims To Take Advantage Of A Disadvantage


Peter Reventlow's legs were not officially even in length until months after his senior season of high school swimming at Gahanna Lincoln - not even a full calendar year ago.

Reventlow, a freshman on Ashland University's swimming and diving team, was born with a rare defect known as congenital focal deficiency, which is commonly linked with the absence or shortening of a leg bone. In Reventlow's case, he was born without a growth plate in his left femur.

He was required to have surgery every other year throughout his life, and Reventlow was physically unable to swim competitively during those years. Also, during those surgeries, his hip would dislocate, and he had to get it fused into his pelvis.

However, on May 5, 2016, doctors determined that Reventlow's legs were even. About a month later, he became an Eagle.

"In swimming," Reventlow said, "it's all based on your times. It doesn't really matter what you look like or what's wrong with you."

During the recruiting process, his contact with Ashland was with now-third-year assistant coach Samantha Palma.

"She didn't seem like she thought it was a problem," Reventlow said. "She said, 'You still have fast times, so you'll still be an asset to team.'"

Due to the complications with Reventlow's hip, he's still not considered fully able-bodied.

But throughout the 2016-17 season, Reventlow competed in 27 heats, including four heats in four different events at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships. 

"Even though I have something visibly wrong with me," Reventlow said, "my coaches expect the same things out of me as they do of everybody else.

"I've always liked being seen as just a normal swimmer. That makes it easier to train hard and work hard, because I'm still expected to compete against everybody else who's able-bodied and can do everything when I can't." 

On Saturday (March 4), Reventlow will compete in the 2017 Intercollegiate Para Swimming Championships at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. 

This will not be Reventlow's first para-swimming event, as he's competed in the Can-Am Championships at the University of Cincinnati every other year since he was 14. He will compete in that event again in May. He also took first place in the 50-yard backstroke at the United States Paralympics 2015 Can Am Open, which featured swimmers from North and South America.

Reventlow said the swimmers at the events are classed by the significance of their physical disabilities, ranging from the most severe (S1) to the least (S10). He fits into the group of S10 swimmers.

"I never think of myself as disabled when I'm in regular meets," Reventlow said. "Then I go to para-swimming meets, and I realize that I have it the easiest out of anybody. There are people I swim with that have one arm or no arms.

"It makes me step back and think about how lucky I am. Even though I have something wrong with me, it could be a lot worse. Seeing those people still work hard and compete is really cool for me."

Reventlow is trying to take one small step toward his ultimate goals on Saturday. He wants to qualify for this summer's 2017 World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City, hoping that will put him on track to make the U.S. team in time to compete in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

"This is the start to that process for me," Reventlow said. "It's perfect, because I've never had two years of consecutive swimming without a break. I've always had to take time off for surgeries. Now I have the opportunity to train as hard as I can year-round for the next three years, and hopefully I'll be on track to go the Paralympics right after my senior year."

Those goals are what are standing between Reventlow and the cure to his hip issues. 

"The only way I can get my hip fixed is if I get a total hip replacement," he said. "That's not really in the cards right now, because I'd have to keep getting them. 

"I figured I might as well just wait till I'm done swimming and see if I can make it to the Paralympics."