A proud mom: Willmar grad heads to Tokyo with her Paralympian daughter
Willmar grad heads to Tokyo with her Paralympian daughter
Ask any parent what they wish to see in life, they would most likely say to see their children be successful in whatever they love to do.
Shannon Klint, a 1987 Willmar graduate and former Cardinals varsity swimmer, is getting prepared for just that at the Paralympics in Tokyo, which run from Aug. 24-Sept. 5. She’ll watch her 17-year-old daughter compete in the same sport they both love: swimming.
Summer Schmit competes in the 400-meter freestyle, (her best time 4 minutes, 57.86 seconds), the 200 individual medley (2:39.60), the 100 butterfly (1:10.62) and the 100 breaststroke (1:24.07). She also made the ‘B’ cut in the 100 freestyle (1:06.53).
“It is great. It is certainly a commitment for any family to do this. But we’re happy and we love it,” Klint said. “We wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. We just believe in supporting our kids to the best of our abilities and getting them to where they want to go in life.”
Despite Tokyo having no spectators, Klint will be able to see her daughter compete live at the venue.
“It means everything. It really does. I feel very lucky and fortunate,” she said. “It’s a privilege that I know that I’ll have. I feel like I’m very lucky to be able to go and be able to be a part of it. I feel like I’ve never missed a swim meet. Driven to practice all those years, a lot of snow storms, rain storms, a lot of swim meets in Indianapolis, Bismarck, Texas, all over the place. And the thought of not going was heartbreaking.
“It’s heartbreaking knowing that her twin sister can’t go and her dad can’t go. That we can’t go as a family,” she added. “However, I understand that we want to keep everyone safe. And really do feel lucky and super fortunate that I can go and be a part of it.”
Klint gave birth to a set of twins after she just hit the 35-weeks marker of her pregnancy. Summer was one of the twins and was born without a right hand or bones in her wrist.
Summer was born with disarticulation of the wrist.
Klint and her family took it in stride and, as time went by, tried to find activities for their children.
Summer did gymnastics and soccer as a preschooler. When it came time for Summer to go to elementary school, Klint suggested swimming to her children.
But the idea for Klint was more from motherly instincts than it was the former swimming athlete.
“I wanted to make sure living in Minnesota that my kids could swim in a lake,” she said. “Worst-case scenario, as a mom, I thought if they were to ever fall out of a boat in the middle of the lake, I want them to be able to swim to shore. That was my goal.”
Summer Schmit was unable to be interviewed to focus on preparations for the upcoming Paralympics in Tokyo.
After having gone through swimming lessons, Klint’s children joined a club swim team at approximately 8 years old.
It was there Summer performed with the pre-team and began to learn all the competitive swimming strokes and terms. That’s when Klint was informed by her children it was time to take a break from the sport.
Return to swimming
Nearly two years later, her family decided it was time to return to the pool and joined the St. Croix Swim Club.
Klint says her family has never looked back from the experience.
At age 11, Summer began to swim competitively and Klint began to see the enjoyment in her daughter when she was in the pool.
Eventually, Summer’s coach recommended she began attending Paralympics swim meets, having seen some strong potential in her races.
After just getting classified, Summer attended her first para swim meet.
It was an experience that Klint will never forget.
“It was super cool to see. There were some national swimmers there. Brand new kids. [Summer] was newly classified, she dove in and swam like a fish,” she said. Then she came out of the pool and was like: ‘Mom, this is awesome.’ And I just thought: ‘Perfect. We found her people.’’
Following the para-swim meet, Klint believes that’s when the love of swimming officially came to Summer.
“As a mom, I really saw change then,” she said. “She saw people like her and not like her and she was just really into para swimming.”
Eventually, in a meet in Bismarck, North Dakota, Summer officially became an international qualified swimmer in each race she swam in.
After becoming internationally qualified, Summer, 13, was invited to swim with Team USA in Sheffield, England, to compete in the World Para Swimming World Series Championships.
“It was kind of really eye-opening as to where all of these athletes all over the world were, some of whom she is now going to swim with in Tokyo as well,” Klint said.
Summer then did it again at 14 but in Berlin, Germany.
At 15, the World Para Swimming World Series was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Summer competed there too.
With each appearance, Summer’s talent, and finishes, continue to improve.
“In Shefield she didn’t make finals. (In) Berlin she made finals and got a bronze youth medal in the 100-meter butterfly,” Klint said. “Indianapolis she started moving up and made finals in more things and placed higher and then in 2019 Indianapolis she won the 200 IM and got her national B team cut. So she’s officially been on the national team since 2019.”
Fast forward a little, and Summer, now 17 and heading into her senior year (she is a home-schooler), has been a scholastic All-American since ninth grade, the first year she could achieve the award. She has won the national championship in the 400 freestyle and 200 individual medley as is set to compete in Tokyo.
A fun time
Klint described what it’s like to watch her daughter compete at the highest level in the same sport Klint competed in during her years in high school in Willmar.
“As a swimmer, it takes me back to all of the fun times we had swimming,” she said. “We had a really fun group of swimmers, high school and some summers. We had a blast. It was a great community and social community and that’s what I love to see for my kids.”
Amidst all the rocky waters Klint, Summer and her family had to endure, including having to practice in a lake during the height of the COVID pandemic, Klint said it was all to help bring success to her child’s own dreams.
“I would say let your kids take the lead. Don’t push them. They will lead you to where they want to go and then they take ownership of that. And then you never know,” she said.
“You never know what your kids can do until they show you, and it’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing what they can show their parents.”