Shortly before coming to Roatan with her mother to spend the summer, eight-year-old Brooklyn Lopez Ryan, an award-winning backstroker with the Middies swim team in White Plains, New York, drove past her school and saw they were having a blood drive. “I wanted to help,” she said.
So Brooklyn and her mother, Yohanna Lopez, hit upon the idea of signing up sponsors to make donations to charity if Brooklyn swam across the Hudson River under the George Washington Bridge from Upper Manhattan in New York City to Fort Lee, New Jersey, a distance of about a mile and a quarter. They said she would be the first person under 10 to make that swim.
She plans to attempt the feat in October, before the water gets too cold.
“I’m probably going to freestyle it,” said Brooklyn, who started swimming when she was two and joined her first swim team at six. “But when I get tired, I’m probably going to turn over on my back.”
While on Roatan, Brooklyn has been training three days a week with Donna Dunn, who was an alternate on the 1968 US Olympic swim team, also as a backstroker. The other four days, she swims laps in the pool behind La Sirena in West Bay, where she and her mother are staying.
“We don’t count (the laps), really,” said Lopez, who has been coming to Roatan on vacation once or twice a year for several years. “She loves swimming . . . She never complained about having to swim.”
“She was a good swimmer before I got her,” said Dunn, who teaches swimming classes four times a week in West End, behind Sundowners. Now, she said, Brooklyn has a “beautiful” backstroke, and other children line up to watch her and try to imitate her.
“That’s a great thing,” said Dunn, especially for the Honduran children, who rarely take swim classes. She said interest in her classes had increased since Brooklyn started swimming with her.
Lopez, who hails from the Dominican Republic, said Brooklyn had been “like a fish in water” ever since she was a baby. She never cried while getting a bath, she said, and when she was six, Lopez said to her husband, Richard Ryan, an electrical contractor, “Richie, we gotta put this girl on a team.” Brooklyn has since won bronze and silver medals in regional swimming meets.
At the time we interviewed her in late July, Brooklyn had still not informed her US coaches that she planned to swim across the Hudson.
“They’re gonna be like, ‘Wow!’” Brooklyn said.
Brooklyn has not decided what her next project will be after swimming to New Jersey, other than completing the third grade at Hackley Elementary School in Tarrytown, New York. Eventually, though, she said she wants to be a veterinarian – and to swim in the 2024 Olympics. She’s also thinking about getting a puppy.
“Show me how well you do,” said Lopez, “and I’ll definitely get you a dog.”[/private]