Tye Dutcher was a fifth-grader at Merced’s Peterson Elementary School when a lawn-mowing accident caused him to lose his foot and part of his leg.
While the event provoked shock and fear, over time, he decided he would not allow the injury to limit his life.
On Friday, Dutcher returned to his former school to share with students his story and how he pressed on to see athletic success and join Team USA’s paralympic swimmers, the Merced City School District said.
After the accident, Dutcher became a successful swimmer and water polo player at Merced High School. A statement from the school district recounted how his talent caught the attention of coaches who invited him to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
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As a 19-year-old, Dutcher qualified for five swimming events at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, the statement said. Although he didn’t win a medal, he is determined to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
Dutcher, who later moved to Washington with his family, told students he wouldn’t change what happened to him as a child, because “it has given him a greater purpose and an opportunity to inspire others,” the statement said.
Dutcher was excited to share his story with students and staff members, the district said, as well as his former teachers and administrators. He encourages students to rise above the challenges in their own lives.