Del Mar paralympian strives for gold

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SAN DIEGO – 23-year-old Del Mar resident Roy Perkins already has six Paralympic medals, but his quest to be number one continues. With the aid of longtime coach and mentor, Don Watkinds, Perkins trains daily at Wavehouse Athletic Club in search of 2016 Rio Paralympic gold.

swimmerBorn without hands or feet, Roy didn’t learn to swim until he was 12-years-old.  But two years later, he was breaking records and taking the international competition by storm.

“I kind of got a sense I could do well in 2004, I broke a lot of American records in my first meet which was encouraging,” said Perkins.  “I broke the 50-meter butterfly world record in 2006 so I was kind of on top right away.”

Perkins’ medals include the 2008 Beijing gold in the men’s S5 class 50-meter fly, but something still weighs heavily every time the whistle blows.

“I’m still not number one in freestyle,” he said. “I’m number one in butterfly now but I got silver in London and silver at the last world so I’m trying to get back on top.”

Perkins who is fresh off four medals at the IPC World Championships in Montreal, including a gold in men’s 50-meter S5 fly attributes his success to Watkinds, his coach of nine years.

Though the bond between athlete and coach has always been strong, it grew stronger when Watkinds underwent emergency heart surgery in Montreal last week.

“I was at the hospital and I only get one phone call and it was from [Perkins] to tell me he had won the butterfly,” said Watkinds.  “That was pretty neat.”

Perkins said he wanted to win that race for his coach, a man who has believed that his desire to compete with anyone regardless of their ability is the foundation of his success.

“Six months after he joined the team, he told his mom he knew he was on the right team,” said Watkinds.

“I think people will enjoy watching it just as much as watching Michael Phelps and olympic swimming,” added Perkins.

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