Oct. 20, 2008
By Mary Clare Taylor
BALTIMORE - Ever since he was a kid, Phil Scholz dreamed of competing in the Olympics. At the age of 14, Phil lost vision in both eyes and realized that one of his main goals in his swimming career would be to compete in the Paralympics.
About three years ago, one of Phil's coaches encouraged him to look further into the events. The idea of competing in the games grew, and became more realistic, for Phil as his swimming career progressed.
Phil's dream came true this summer at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China.
"My first race I was so nervous I could barely move my jaw. But after swimming the first three races the nerves went away and excitement took over", Phil said.
The experience of swimming in the same pool as so many great athletes, including Michael Phelps, was an inspiring part of Phil's trip to Beijing. He joked, "I came in hoping that Michael left something for me in the water - maybe even some DNA."
Phil encountered many athletes from different countries that he could relate to.
"It was an amazing experience. Knowing that the person swimming next to me couldn't speak the same language as me was interesting."
He also had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who share the same passion for swimming as he does.
"One of the most interesting experiences I had was a conversation with an Iraqi men's volleyball player. He was really friendly and we spoke for a little while despite our countries' situations. I thought that was really cool."
One of the most difficult parts of the trip for Phil was being in an unfamiliar place without his guide dog, Taxi. Traveling across the world without his wingman brought on challenges for Phil.
"But when I got home, Taxi nearly knocked me over he was so excited. He missed me and all of the attention."
After returning from Beijing to the United States, Phil's experiences with the Paralympics were far from over. He had the opportunity to be a part of the "Parade of Gold", joining Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff in a procession through Towson. "I got to ride in a Mustang convertible and Michael Phelps was just a few cars behind me in a Hummer. The parade drew a huge crowd which was incredible", Phil said.
Phil also went to the White House to hear President Bush speak with his fellow teammates.
"Overall, I would say the whole experience went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. I would not trade it for the world," Phil said. Phil continues to work hard in the swimming pool and is looking forward to the 2012 Paralympics in London.