Jamal Hill was only 10 years old when his body started to fail him. He experienced total paralysis and doctors considered amputating his right arm. The diagnosis: Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) – a hereditary neurological condition that can result in progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation in the body.
CMT threatened to alter Jamal’s entire life, including his passion for swimming. But through sheer will, faith and determination Jamal has not only, over the years, regained his mobility, he is at the top of his game as a competitive swimmer. Today, at 26, the Los Angeles native is ranked #1 in the US Paralympic 50 Free and #3 in the world! As a result, is headed to Tokyo this year as a member of the 2021 US Paralympic Swim Team with an opportunity to bring home the gold.
Jamal developed a love for swimming through a local YMCA “Mommy & Me” swim class. It was evident that Jamal was a natural born swimmer. After his paralysis and recovery at age 10, his parents encouraged him to use CMT as an opportunity to overcome challenges and inspire others.
Jamal pushed through the pain and fear of being seen and treated differently and swam competitively in high school, receiving a swimming scholarship to Hiram College in Northeast Ohio. In three years, Jamal left Ohio to train under the University of Southern California’s Dave Salo and USC’s prestigious Trojan Elite Swim Team.
Jamal, who trains 14 hours every week, is now working with mental performance coach and swim consultant Wilma Wong. Jamal credits her innovative training style and techniques with improving his standing from unranked amateur to number one in the nation within one year.
Jamal’s passion for swimming extends well beyond his personal and professional goals for Tokyo 2021. The latest statistics from the World Health Organization show that roughly 360,000 people lost their lives to drowning in 2016. In the US, drowning ranks fifth among the causes of unintentional injury death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an attempt to lower the global drowning rate, Jamal founded the Swim Up Hill Foundation Inc. which will be teaching one million students how to swim annually by fall of 2028.
Jamal also uses his experiences with CMT as an opportunity to offer strategies on how to reach goals and live out dreams. In addition, he is dispelling myths around disability performance – and what that looks like. His story is not only empowering and inspiring, it is just beginning.
Follow Swim Up Hill on Instagram, @swimuphill