Liang demonstrates strong swim performance despite adversity

By Ben Finklestein || Contributing Writer

Some people never learn to swim. Maybe out of fear, maybe they never find the opportunity to learn, or maybe physical impairments make it impossible. Megan Liang is an exception to all of these. Megan Liang, a sophomore at F&M, competes with the school’s Division III varsity swimming team, embraces the physical demands of swimming. She trains in the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle, both requiring unprecedented stamina and drive. “I enjoy the uniqueness of my challenge. When I’m in the water, I don’t feel any different from anyone else in there with me,” Liang said. In a sport typically understood to require both legs to proactively participate, Liang gets the job done with only one. Born in Moraga, California, Liang was, like most children born to suburban families, subject to enroll in swim classes with any local Boys and Girls Club or YMCA. While Megan had at first found these lessons to be pointless, she soon discovered the merit in her participation. In the spring of 2001, Liang returned home from a carnival with her family and discovered a large bruise surrounding her left knee. Confused by how she had acquired it, Megan ignored the seemingly harmless mark. Two weeks later, after the bruise had spread down her leg, the pain was so severe that Megan could no longer sleep or walk. After an emergency visit to a nearby hospital, Liang was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left leg. On October 1, 2001, doctors amputated Megan’s left leg below the knee. Despite her handicap, Megan somehow continued to swim. “It just felt unnatural. I couldn’t stay afloat and I had no useful sense of balance. My brother and father would have to toss me in with floaties until I got the hang of it.” Liang eventually regained her confidence and began to practice and compete with a local summer swim club. She continued to participate every summer until joining a year-round club at the age of 13. Liang excelled in her ability, quickly scaling the ranks at her club until she was notified of Paralympic opportunities later that same year. In the spring of 2012, Megan Liang qualified for the US National Paralympic trials. “I had never been so nervous, but at the same time there was something beautiful and comforting about being surrounded by athletes with similar hardships,” Liang said. Surrounded by friends, family, and coaches, Liang missed qualifying time by seconds and failed to land a spot on the national team. The result did little to weaken her determination, and Liang quickly made the decision to continue swimming in college and entered the recruitment process. Megan hit an obstacle when colleges notified her that her times on paper were not up to the standards for most Division III programs. Little did these schools know that she was swimming with half of the number of legs as other competitors. As a result, Megan committed to F&M where she proceeded to compete for the varsity team after a successful walk-on trial. She just finished her second season with the team, and plans to return to national trials in 2016. Despite Megan’s constant participation in swimming over the years, her first experiences were less than superb, although ultimately grew to become an integral part of her life. “I could not run or participate in any other sport for that matter. I hated it at first but eventually I got the hang of it and began to fall in love with swimming. It’s the one thing I can do where I don’t feel any different,” Liang said. This past week, more Spring sports for the 2015 year started their seasons and the women’s swim program continued their strong record. The Lady Diplomats started things off on the right note with an impressive 3-0 record after beating Stevenson University by a score of 13-8. First-year Ben Finkelstein is a contributing writer. His email is bfinkels@fandm.edu.

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