Jamal Hill (@swimuphill) a swimmer for the US Paralympic team and currently training for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games has his goals set high as he aims to teach one million to swim. Overcoming extremely difficult obstacles has always been a part of his life. Hill suffers from an inherited genetic disorder called Charcot Marie Tooth Disease, that causes nerve damage in his arms & legs. We caught up with Jamal during one of his “SwimUpHill” swim clinics to find out about his path to Tokyo, his genetic disorder Charcot Marie Tooth, and how he plans to teach one million to swim.
Growing up in Inglewood, Hill began swimming and competing at a very early age. His passion grew for the sport until it all came to a terrifying pause in 2004. When he was ten years old he experienced a stint of full body paralysis from Charcot Marie Tooth, an incurable genetic disease. CMT is a peripheral nerve disorder that affects 1 in 2,500 people. Hill explains, “Charcot Marie Tooth directly impairs my ability to grow and use muscles from my knees to the soles of my feet, and from my elbow to my fingertips. As a further complication of my impaired motor control, my stamina and energy levels become depleted much faster than the average person. This is because of how much “work” my functioning muscles have to generate in order to adequately compensate for the lack of neural connection in my extremities.” Throughout his youth, Hill struggled with simple athletic actions most children take for granted, “things like jumping, or even walking without constantly tripping over my feet were large challenges. My parents always told me, “If it’s difficult, just practice, and at the very least you’ll be better than when you started,” says Hill. The biggest difference maker for Hill came when he decided to make a mental change towards how he internally treated his disease, “I was able to overcome CMT when I decided that anything I put my mind to, I could accomplish. CMT was something that I was born with, and have lived with for most of my life… staying active and keeping a clean alkaline diet have been the biggest contributors to my successful lifestyle adaptation.” Once Hill changed his mindset, he was able to take control of CMT and get back on top of his swimming career.
Currently training for the 2020 Paralympic games in Tokyo, Hill competed in his first International swim meet for Team USA Paralympics in Scotland and ranked 1st in the nation and 18th in the world in the 100m freestyle. He also placed 2nd in the nation and 18th in the world for the 50m freestyle. Hill uses many unconventional and newer training techniques to get his body ready for this high level of competition. Hill notes, “My current training techniques are a combination of USRPT and Weck Method locomotion principles. USRPT allows me to train at near top speed and maximize small amounts of time. Weck Method training has helped me drive my motion from my lat muscles which have greatly improved my stroke.” Along with these techniques, Hill has been using a new swimming fin from Laguna Fin Co. He shares his experience using this unique product, “Laguna Fins have helped my backstroke a lot! Unlike power fins which drastically change my stroke cadence, the Laguna Fins are just enough of a boost to help me keep my legs afloat while at the same time requiring me to use an immense amount of leg to actually achieve the benefit. They’ve been serving as a fitness trainer, and technical training tool…I would absolutely recommend Laguna Fin Co to other swimmers & athletes!” With his positive drive and consistent work ethic we are beyond excited to to see Hill compete in Tokyo this upcoming year. Outside of competition, Hill has an even larger goal where he sets his focus- teaching one million to swim.
This goal is incorporated in his company SwimUpHill, which is more than a company, “it is a movement that resonates with anyone who has ever been met with obstacles in pursuit of their dream. My brand speaks to those who are willing to swim against the current and who are undeterred by what others label as “impossible,” notes Hill. Two time Olympian and Laguna Fin Co partner, Kaitlin Sandeno, teamed up with Hill at the Boys and Girls Club in Pasadena to help his cause and donate fins to every swimmer at the clinic. During the event we asked him how he came up with this goal and how he was going to achieve it. Hill commented, “I was told once, if you want to make a million dollars, figure out how to serve one million people. My ultimate goal is to leverage the income, connections, and status from empowering individuals and communities with water safety skills to increase the international popularity of aquatic related activities.” He plans on achieving this goal through clinics, events, his social media platforms, and a new digital platform in the works, designed to enable two or more people to learn how to swim safely together via closed course video programming and accompanying direct mail safety equipment. Hill mentioned his progress on reaching his goal, “Over the course of my 9-year career I have taught thousands of people to swim, kids and adults alike. I also use the metrics from my current social platforms to gauge the amount of reach and influence my content is having.” If you’d like to know more about Jamal Hill and follow him along his pathway to Tokyo visit his new website SwimUpHill, or reach out to him on Instagram @swimuphill and join his cause to teach one million to swim. Find out more about Laguna Fin Co here.