MEET MARY | Mary "Mermaid" Borman is a Special Olympic Athlete & Down Syndrome advocate. Learn more about Mary through this Q+A!
Photos by Mary Beth Breshears.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Mary Borman. I am 23 years old and I live in Fayetteville Arkansas with my parents. My talents are swimming, dancing, and public speaking. I have been swimming since I was 4 years old and started dancing as soon as I could stand up. When I attended the University of Arkansas for two years, I learned public speaking skills.
I started swimming when I was 4 years old. When I was first born, a nurse at the hospital came by the room and talked about her 15 year old sister with Down syndrome that had drowned. My parents wanted to make me drown resistant. I took lessons every summer at Wilson Park Pool and I did most of the sessions every summer. When I was 9 years old, I went to my first Special Olympics State Games in swimming and since then I have gone every year except 2020. I was chosen to represent Arkansas in the National Special Olympic Games in Seattle in 2018 and also competed with the US Down Syndrome Swimming team for the International Down Syndrome Swimming Meet in Canada in 2018. I swim 2000 yards at least 4 days a week at either the HPER, the Jones Center and this summer I will be swimming at the Mt. Sequoyah pool too. My favorite strokes are freestyle and backstroke. I am excited to have been chosen to represent the USA again in the International Down Syndrome Swimming Meet in Portugal in October. This year, I was chosen for the National Special Olympic Games that will be in Orlando. I will be representing Arkansas in Paddle Boarding. It is a great team to be a part of. It is also good cross training for swimming.
What do you do as an advocate
As a self-advocate, I have represented Arkansas as an Arkansas Self-Advocate going to Capitol Hill to encourage our senators and congress people to support disability rights issues. I have done public speaking to represent the Special Olympics and speaking engagements at the University of Arkansas talking about my life with Down syndrome. I have run workshops on line dance at the National Down Syndrome Congress Conference for the Youth and Adult Conference portion. This year I will be presenting a workshop at the Conference in New Orleans called ‘Fit for Life”. I have given presentations on health and wellness for the Adult Summit of the National Down Syndrome Society.
I also think that by getting better and better at swimming, I help others with disabilities see what is possible for them.
And I dance a lot.
Getting a consistent coach and being a part of a swim team. COVID made it hard to find a place to swim. Sometimes there was no one to coach me so I just kept swimming and looking for the right person to come along. My parents fight for me. They know that I deserve to be treated the same as others, not differently.
Advice for others with Down syndrome or a disability.
If you love something and you keep going and keep working, you can achieve anything. Find your passion and go for it.
Advice I wish someone had said to you
I wish someone would have let me know when I was a sophomore in high school that I could try out for the Fayetteville High School swim team. I tried out as a senior and only had one year on the team. I wish I would have had more.
The favorite part of what I do
I love being a part of a team. It is exciting to feel like I belong. I love speaking in public. And I love to dance. Three favorite things.
Who inspires you
My parents. They are amazing role models. They cheer and encourage and give me lasting support. They have known me the most out of anybody.
Local creatives that I admire
I really admire my Fayetteville High School Swimming Coach, Mike Kaminski. He was kind and caring to me and I tried my best for him and it made me a better swimmer.
Anita Parisi is my coach now and she is amazing. She cares about me and pushes me to be the best swimmer I can be. I am my best swimming self because of them.
Message to share with the community
Thank you to everyone who has been supportive to me and has loved me. You have believed in me and that is everything to me. I have a great community and I love it. Everyone has talents and their own special place in the world.
FOLLOW MARY on Instagram HERE
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER | Mary Beth Breshears is a NWA based product, portrait and brand photographer. She helps small businesses get epic product and lifestyle shots that tell the story of who you are as a business and can produce photoshoots to demonstrate product use in the field. You can visit Mary Beth's website HERE.