Prout does swimmingly well: No obstacle too great for UMass freshman to overcome
Feb. 16, 2006
AMHERST, Mass. - Don't be surprised if Michael David Prout, Jr. winds up with a "Beijing 2008" sticker attached to his travel suitcase. The UMass freshman swimmer has already struck for a gold medal in 400-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in 100-freestyle at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Prout recently set two U.S. records in Paralympic swimming, covering 500 meters in 4:59.52 and 1,000 meters in 10:18.01, both set in Boyden Pool on the UMass campus.
"I said to someone the other day that the word inspirational is sometimes overused in life and athletics," said UMass swim coach Russ Yarworth, who has guided the Minutemen to five straight Atlantic 10 championships. "As I got to know Michael I felt it was quite appropriate because the young man has really dealt with some significant challenges, which he doesn't even consider challenges anymore."
During pregnancy, Prout's mother developed Ambiotic Band Syndrome.
"They thought she was going to have twins and the other twin died and my mom's womb closed up a little bit and it effected my right side a little bit," said Prout, whose right arm, hand, and leg were effected. "Everything's fine, maybe a little bit less catch (of water)."
The 5-foot-4, 125-pound Prout concentrates on long distances like 800, 1,000 and 1,650 meters. He also swims the 200-meter free, backstroke and butterfly events. He views 1,650 as the biggest challenge.
"I think that's the toughest because you have to be able to focus for such a long period of time and keep your intensity up for the whole race," he said."You have to get through the pain and what-not. It's also my favorite, my best event."
Prout, who turns 20 on Saturday, is from West Springfield and attended St. Mary's High School in Westfield. He swam for the Acqua Bears in nearby Suffield, Conn. His training regimen over the past 10 years has steadily increased to swimming between 7,000 and 10,000 meters daily in a two-hour practice.
"When I was younger, I was 5, I had my hip operated on and for rehab they wanted me to start swimming, so I did," said Prout, a political science major who is considering law school. "I guess I've always loved the water even when I was 1 or 2-years-old. I remember the first practice, I hopped in the water. It was really cold. I started crying and got out. So did my sister. I went back next practice and it was all right after that. After a season or two I started getting better."
While Michael moved up the swim ranks from recreation team to club team, his younger sister, Taryn, also made rapid strides. Taryn, 18, also a UMass freshman, has been one of the Minutemen's top performers in the 1,000 freestyle, 500 free, 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke. Her 100 backstroke time of 1:00:70 ranks No. 8 all-time at UMass.
Yarworth said he has gained more from coaching Prout than the swimmer has probably gained from Yarworth's 27 years of coaching experience.
"Coaching him has been a positive thing not only for me but for the team," Yarworth said. "They can really see what he does with what he's been given and if the rest of the team works as hard as him then the whole team becomes better. Michael certainly works at a level, where they say you can't measure heart, in terms of him, it's absolutely true."