HUNTERSVILLE – On July 20, Ben Duckworth became a three-time Junior Olympic champion in swimming. The 12-year-old athlete competed for Huntersville’s NOMAD Aquatics at a Cary meet.
Duckworth’s strongest discipline is the breaststroke, where he sweeps the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter events at state competitions.
In addition to these first-place finishes, Duckworth placed second and third in the 400 and 200 individual medley races, respectively, as well as fifth, eighth, ninth or 13th in six other events.
Duckworth swims with the advanced 11- and 12-year-olds group at NOMAD.
He practices five days a week, sometimes twice a day and usually attends a meet on the weekends.
He said the commitment comes from his love of the sport.
“There are many reasons I keep going back,” Duckworth said. “I love doing it every single day. Secondly, for my friends and my coaches. They really keep me going.”
Despite his competitive success, Duckworth’s focus is on enjoying the sport and improving.
“I try not to pay too much attention to national rankings because they change so often,” he says. “People are constantly beating their times. I just try to do my best every day.”
On the rare occasion he finds free time, Duckworth still goes to the water.
“I do not have much time between swimming and school,” he said. “But, I do enjoy kayaking and whitewater rafting.”
Along with swimming, Duckworth values family time.
“We are lucky that my daughter (Heather) also swims and it has become a family sport,” said his mother, Shannon Duckworth. ”We travel as a family, the team has become a family, and we rely on each other.”
Shannon says she wants her son to enjoy the sport and take it one step at a time.
“We are going to see where it takes us,” she says. “Ben is a well-rounded kid who is dedicated to anything he puts his mind to.”
At the end of the month, Duckworth will compete at a North Carolina zone meet in San Antonio, Texas. He was invited to swim with the top eight swimmers in his age group. Being selected for the event is quite an honor. The meet, like many others, will be an exciting challenge for Duckworth.
“It’s really fun being there with your friends but it’s also a lot of pressure,” Duckworth said. “It can be kind of stressful and you get pretty nervous. Mostly you’re there to have fun.”
Duckworth is a young athlete who shows great promise as a swimmer and individual.
“He has a great attitude, a good sense of humor, and he’s a lot of fun to be around.” said his head coach, Steve Billings. “He’s very focused and very talented.”