Plum grad Pietropola overcomes challenges to lap the competition
By Ed Phillipps
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Penn State Behrend freshman swimmer Mia Pietropola is easy to spot at the beginning of a race with her head cocked to the side while her opponents are looking down towards the water.
She's easy to spot at the end of a race too, since she's usually the one that finished first.
Pietropola is deaf and is assisted with visual cues by a referee standing to her left and a strobe light that goes off when a race begins. Once in the water, no further assistance is needed.
“I never really thought my hearing loss caused any issues for me when competing,” Pietropola, a Plum graduate, said via e-mail. “I just have the disadvantage of not hearing the start at the beginning of each race but I learned to push through and not let it slow me down.”
It certainly has not, considering she became a school record holder just a few meets into her collegiate career when she clocked a 2:31.28 breast stroke. That broke the previous record of 2:32.14 held by Julie Cook since 2012.
“When I saw the time I needed to beat the record, I was excited because I knew I had a chance,” Pietropola said. “When I finally got it, I was happy that my hard work had paid off. I learned that the effort that I put toward that goal was worth it. I was determined to get that record sometime this year.”
Pietropola is already third on the school's all-time list in the 100 breast stroke with a time of 1:10.32. She also swims the 200 intermediate medley and rotates throughout the relay teams.
Pietropola picks up sound through a Cochlear implant. The implant is embedded under the skin and is waterproof but the transmitter (attached magnetically from the outside of the skull) and headset containing a speech processor and a microphone (hooked behind the ear like a traditional hearing aid) must be removed. After taking the referee's visual cues, Pietropola snaps her head towards the water and dives in.
“She loses some of the ability to push off at the start,” Lions head coach Jennifer Wallace said, “but she makes up for it with a good kick off the walls. She's pretty much got it down to a science.”
Because the aquatic centers where meets are held tend to get loud, Wallace uses hand signals when coaching her swimmers. She also writes out practice schedules and notes, so Wallace and Pietropola, who can also read lips, communicate just fine.
One of the attributes that makes Pietropola a special individual, Wallace said, is her sense of humor and ability to take everything in stride. Pietroploa has proven to be a funny and outgoing teammate.
“Often times, when I am lip reading and repeat what I thought the person said, it's the complete opposite and creates laughter because it's funny,” Pietropola said. “Also, my swim friends sometimes ask me what set we are doing and I reply to them, ‘You are asking a deaf person!' which also causes laughter. I have a positive attitude and believe that no disability should stop anyone from achieving their dreams.”
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Confident Hayden taps potential with IUP lacrosse team
- Keystone Oaks grad receives rookie of the year award