Long-time KAATSU user Robert Griswold won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games in the S8 100 meter backstroke final in 1:04.68. Since Rio, he has dreamed of standing on top of the awards podium and hearing the national anthem of the United States.
Today was his day to proudly hear his national anthem with a gold medal around his neck.
Griswold started out quickly, but controlled, with a 30.35 split on the first 50. On the NBC telecast [shown above], viewers could see how he started to approach closer and closer to the world record line on every stroke as he powered through his second lap. He finished with a blazing 32.3 final 50 meters to set a world record and Paralympic record of 1:02.55.
He broke the 1:02.90 world record of China’s Cong Zhou at 1:02.90 who set that world record en route to gold at the Rio Paralympics. But Griswold took two steps up the podium and set a new standard in the men’s S8 category.
“Robert has always impressed me, both in and out of the water,” remarked Steven Munatones. “Like his hero – renowned Olympic backstroke champion Aaron Piersol, Robert came through big-time today – and he was able to do it with his family in the stands.”
Griswold’s road to gold was a long time coming.
“From a young age, I knew I was different when I was in the playground. But when I got in the swimming pool, I felt like everyone else. I was just six years old at the time and it was so much fun to be able to compete in a sport, something that I’d never had the opportunity to do before.”
Griswold, who has congenital cerebral palsy and was born with dislocated knees and hips, exudes positivity and goal-setting and is a role model for many.
“Don’t give up on yourself. Just because you’re at a disadvantage doesn’t mean you should look at yourself that way. My cerebral palsy affects my general coordination, walking, running, jumping. It also affects my hands a little bit and my fine motor skills. I worked for five years for this moment. I remember this record took a big jump down in Rio, and I was in that race, and I woke up the next day and said, ‘How can I get down to 1:02.90?’ I thought about it again and again, and said if I just kept a little bit better every day, it will click. Then one day it all clicked. I honestly wasn’t thinking 1:02.50. I hit the wall and saw that I was out at 30-something, and I said, ‘You know what, let’s just go for it’ and I went with. When I touched the wall I just screamed with joy because I was so happy to do the best I could for my country.”
Griswold has a demanding schedule throughout the rest of the Tokyo Paralympics. He swims the 200m individual medley on August 28th, the 400m freestyle on August 31st, the 100m butterfly on September 3rd, and the possibility of some freestyle and medley relays.
S8 100m Backstroke Final – Results:
Gold: Robert Griswold (USA) 1:05.49
Silver: Inigo Llopis Sanz (Spain) 1:06.82
Bronze: Fengqi Liu (China) 1:07.09
4th: Jesse Aungles (Australia) 1:07.94
5th: Kota Kubota (Japan) 1:09.09
6th: Pavel Kuklin (Russia) 1:09.26
7th: Joseph Peppersack (USA) 1:09.45
8th: Jurijs Semjonovs (Latvia)
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