There are any number of attributes people can focus on when describing Olympia (Wash.) Capital High swimmer Tyler Sharp. When it comes to athletics, that he is more likely to be referred to as a potential state qualifier is a powerful complement to his own perseverance and ability to overcome shortcomings, for one simple reason: Sharp doesn't even have a full left arm.
As profiled in the Olympian, Sharp -- a first-year swimmer for Olympia -- has emerged as a surprising contender in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle events. He's done all of that with one limb that is perhaps best compared to the non-pitching arm of former MLB starter Jim Abbott, with Sharp's left arm stopping just below his elbow.
Sharp was born with his shortened appendage, but that has never stopped the teenager from excelling in a number of activities. The junior is also a soccer player and tuba player in the school's marching band. Those activities followed years of Little League Baseball and basketball, not to mention skiing, snowboarding and even wakeboarding in the summer.
Still, Sharp's high school schedule left his winters without an activity until friends badgered him into joining the school's swimming team. The results have been impressive, particularly for a swimmer who had never competed before one of his later high school semesters. So far, Sharp has recorded a best time of 30.18 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle, a mark just four seconds away from a postseason qualification.
"If you couldn't see him, you wouldn't see he has one arm," fellow Capital swimmer Jack Swanson told the Olympian. "He pushes through."
That's easier to do in the sport's shortest events, the 50 and 100, because those races rely more on leg power and rapid turnover in strokes. Still, Sharp has to put in more strokes with a quicker motion than his competitors to accommodate for less upper body thrust.
Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped Sharp from volunteering for longer events, including a cameo in the almost never-ending 500-yard freestyle when Capital was a swimmer short during an earlier duals meet.
His time? A respectable 9:00.89, good enough to jog Capital swimming coach Dean Sawhill's curiosity about using him in longer events, too.
For his part, Sharp is taking everything with his new sport in stride, holding back from getting carried away just as he has with all other new events he's picked up over the years. Besides, as fun as competing on a varsity swimming team may be, it can't compete with one of the teenager's other favorite pastimes: telling curious onlookers that he lost the rest of "stubby" in a shark or bear attack.
"I like how I am," Sharp told the Olympian. "I don't want to change. I can do everything that everyone else can do."
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