SUNY Brockport student lives life without limits

Martha Ruether will swim for SUNY Brockport, fresh off an inspiring Paralympic Games in Rio (WHAM photo)

Brockport, N.Y. - Like her competitors, Martha Ruether puts in work.

Countless hours in the pool to stay at the top of her game.

Her hard work has paid off.

She made it to the Paralympics in Rio to represent the U.S.

"It was awesome. It’s surreal, I don’t think it’s hit me yet. It was such an honor to represent my country on such a big stage," Ruether said.

While she didn't medal in any of her events, she did get one of her best times.

Not bad for a girl who admits she was a horrible swimmer at first.

Not bad for a girl who's visually impaired

Martha was born at 24 weeks with a premature retina and one lung.

She's blind in one eye with 2400 vision in the other.

"Details at a distance are difficult. Reading things far away, I know the size of the writing, I can tell that it’s writing and the colors and all of that but specifically is hard. It’s like looking at a font size 8 or 5, it’s too small," said Reuther.

Her impairment is met with some challenges.

"Depth perception is a little bit of an issue too because I can only see out of one eye I think that’s the only problem I have while swimming is that when you come to a turn you can’t see how close you are to the wall, so that’s an issue," said Ruether.

A challenge she overcomes by strategically counting.

Her progress doesn't come as a surprise to Dr. Lauren Lieberman who worked with Ruether at Camp Abilities years ago.

"She was a great athlete, really positive, never complained at all and really good performer, especially in swimming which is what the staff recognized immediately in her," Lieberman said.

Opening a new world to Ruether.

"They can see a connection between where they are and where they can be," said Lieberman. "I don’t know if everybody looks at children with visual impairments with as much potential as they have. They have a lot more potential than we give them credit for."

Raising the bar each time she jumps into the pool.

She'll do just that this fall for SUNY Brockport where she'll bring her leadership and life lessons.

"How often do we get upset over the little things in life?" Asked swim coach Jason Morini. "Here’s this girl who has overcome so much, I think that’s a great asset to any team."

Ruether calls the pool her happy place.

As she points to her infinity tattoo, she credit her faith for her achievements.

She humbly admits that she doesn't think of herself as an inspiration.

She says she's just living life and hopes others do the same.

"It’s the place where you can have vision, you cannot have vision, you can have legs, you don’t have to have legs. You can be missing arms but you can still swim, you can still compete in the same events, you might not be as fast as the people with all their body parts, you can still do it," said Ruether.

Ruether plans to compete in the world championships in Mexico City next year.

She's a senior at SUNY Brockport this year and wants to pursue a Masters in Psychology.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off