An Interview with Jamal Hill: Paralympian And Founder Of The Swim Up Hill Method
We were lucky enough to sit down (virtually) with Paralympian swimmer and founder of Swim Up Hill, Jamal Hill. The Swim Up Hill organization is currently teaching hundreds of families from all over the world essential water competency and safety skills virtually through the Airbnb online platform.
"Through the ease and speed of the Swim Up Hill Method, I aim to teach 1,000,000 people to swim, taking justice against senseless-accidental drownings." - Jamal Hill
Tell us about yourself, who is Jamal Hill?
My name is Jamal Hill, I am an educator and Team USA Paralympic swimmer based out of Inglewood, California competing in the 2021 Paralympics in Japan and running my business Swim Up Hill. I am currently ranked #1 in the United States for several swimming events, and #7 in the word for the Men’s S10 50 meter freestyle.
Tell us about your aquatic journey… when did you start swimming, what are some of your swimming accomplishments?
My mother never learned how to swim before I was born but she made sure that I did learn from an early age through Mommy & Me programs at our local YMCA. I swam competitively in age-group from ages six to ten. At age ten I took a six-year hiatus from swimming due to complications of my congenital neuropathy disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth. At age sixteen I joined my high school swim team as a sophomore and continued swim through my high school career for about three months each year until I graduated. Upon graduation, I attended a division three college in northeast Ohio, where I competed as apart of their collegiate team for three years. Upon completing my junior year I decided to “ Go Pro”, and have been training year-round since 2017. My career to date is like most swimmers, and quite spectacular considering what I’ve been able to accomplish with only three years of formal year-round training.
As a para-athlete, what do you think are the most common misconceptions and misunderstandings about the para-sports community?
Most people assume that disability is something that should be clearly visible and easily identified. As a para-athlete with less traditional characteristics of what most consider warrant inclusion into the disability spectrum, I take great pride in highlighting that not all disabilities fit a cookie-cutter model. Human beings are complex, and I try to offer opportunities to celebrate those complexities and acknowledge the differences that make us unique. As one of the older members of Team USA ParaSwimming, I encourage parents and athletes to participate as often as possible in sporting events and on teams that “fully able-bodied” individuals participate in. The best thing we can do is empower our disabled community so that they dare to reach past the limits that society has attempted to place on them, and to affect, a paradigm shift in the minds of our public resulting in a perspective likened to “whether some is missing a limb, sight, or nerve conductivity, they are not missing the ability to dream and accomplish their goals.. which is what makes us all human.”
What is Swim Up Hill? How did it begin and what is your mission for the program?
In the United States, historical practices of systemic oppression prevented black families from gaining access to public pools, lakes, and beaches. Over the decades that racial exclusion developed into a frighteningly true stigma that “black people don’t swim.” This stigma has manifested itself in drowning rate data where black youth are three times as likely to be involved in accidental drownings. Through the ease and speed of the Swim Up Hill Method, I aim to teach 1,000,000 people to swim, taking justice against senseless-accidental drownings. The mission to teach 1,000,000 is a mantle that has been assumed by the Swim Up Hill Foundation and at this time everyone has the opportunity to continue to invest in water competency for underserved communities by becoming a fiscal sponsor through our "foundation" page on the www.swimuphill.com website.