Just 10 years ago, Nathan McClain was afraid to venture into the deep end of a swimming pool. Today, he is a world-class swimmer; a two-time silver medalist at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
McClain, the 20-year-old son of former Monticello residents Alan and Johnna McClain, represented the USA last week at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles where he posted his best time ever in the 50M butterfly, earning him the silver medal. His time of 33.62 seconds was just 1.58 seconds behind the gold medalist from Hong Kong.
McClain also stepped up and filled in for a teammate who was unable to swim the 100-meter butterfly leg in the 4X100M medley finals. Though he had never competed at 100 meters, McClain told his coaches he would try. The relay team won the silver medal.
“We were so excited when McClain said he would participate, then he stepped up to the plate and smoked it!” Coach Michael Wilson of Atlanta, Georgia said in an interview on the Special Olympics World Games website.
Helping his relay team win the silver medal was among McClain’s greatest experiences at the Special Olympics World Games.
Asked what was the high point of participating in the World Games, McClain said it is hard to identify just one because there were multiple highlights.
“One was meeting Michael Phelps and shaking his hand and complimenting Phelps on his butterfly stroke,” McClain said. “Also, I was excited to be able to swim the 100 meter butterfly in our relay. I had never competed in that event but the team needed me to step in to help the team win the silver medal when the original teammate was unable to participate. Also, it was exciting to meet athletes from so many other countries who were in the U.S. for the games.”
Pretty heady stuff for a young man who was afraid of deep water just 10 years ago.
McClain, of Little Rock, did not get over his fear of deep water until about age 11, according to his parents.
“Once he did, we put him on our neighborhood swim team, where he learned all techniques for the strokes, including his favorite, the butterfly,” said Nathan’s mother Johnna McClain. “He competed a little there for a few years until he learned he could compete with Special Olympics.”
McClain, who began competing in Special Olympics State Games about seven years ago when he was in middle school, traveled to Princeton, New Jersey last summer to compete in the USA games where he won a gold medal in the 50M butterfly and a bronze medal in the 100M freestyle. His relay team from Arkansas also won a bronze in the 4X50 medley relay. His time in that relay was the fastest overall.
To prepare for competition, Nathan swims about four times a week and works with weights, according to his parents.
“Nathan has had a goal to get in the pool about four times a week for the last year,” said Johnna McClain. “Sometimes he gets in there more frequently and sometimes a little less. He has had a dedicated Special Olympics coach from Jonesboro, Cindy Albright, who has designed workouts for him. She would email them and he would print them off and laminate them so they could withstand the water. He would select one of many workouts she had prescribed for him and do it. Some days this would take an hour or a little more. He also daily would do a lot of stretching and sometimes weights. Special Olympics Arkansas has a summer camp every year that really encouraged him to keep up the hard work.”
In addition to swimming, McClain is in an athlete leadership program and is a Special Olympics Arkansas Ambassador. He attends meetings and looks for ways to promote Special Olympics. He often speaks to clubs on behalf of Special Olympics and tells what the organization means to him and about the opportunities it has given him.
“Special Olympics has helped me set new athletic goals and has kept me physically fit,” McClain said. “Also, I have enjoyed traveling to places to compete such as the U.S. games in Princeton, NJ last year and in Indianapolis for Team USA training. I’ve also had several opportunities to do public speaking in front of several different groups on behalf of Special Olympics Arkansas.”
When he isn’t swimming or promoting Special Olympics, McClain enjoys working out, listening to music and spending time with his friends.
He also has a job at his alma mater, Catholic High School in Little Rock, assisting the athletic trainer with the football team.
McClain is the grandson of Sheere Scogin and the late Ervin and Martha Sue McClain and nephew of Susan McClain Musik, all of Monticello.