Jamal Hill is another Paralympian in our own backyard. The Inglewood native and alum of Serra High School in Gardena won a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle S9. His 25.19 time broke his own American record in the event.
Spectators were not allowed in the Paralympics, so his close relatives watched him compete from home.
“I’m over the moon, I’m past cloud nine,” Hill’s mother, Sandra Floyd-Hill, said. “He’s living a reality that he worked hard for.”
Hill lives with the neurological condition Charcot-Marie-Tooth which causes abnormalities in the nerves that supply to extremities. He has zero percent nerve capacity from his knees to his feet and 30 percent from his elbows to his fingertips.
“I’m really governing everything off of my knee joint and off my hips,” Hill said. “It feels like I’m walking on my knees … I don’t text in bed with a phone over my face because I do not have very good grip.”
Hill wants his success in Tokyo to encourage youth to learn how to swim. When he dropped out of college, he made a promise to God to use his talent as a point of positive influence.
“I have this dream, I have this vision, it’s bigger than me,” Hill said. “I want to impact a lot of people, I want to have this platform to inspire.”
Hill is sponsored by Speedo and is a member of their “Make Waves” campaign; through their campaign, he shared his dream of teaching one million people how to swim. This became his dream during the 2018 U.S. Paralympics Swimming Para National Championships. After winning two golds and one silver at the meet, he realized that he wanted to be more than just a para swim champion.
“I have a really good understanding of where swim education is failing our low to middle-income communities,” Hill said. “I’m able to be honored by the world on this global stage, on that podium. It’s also an opportunity for me to be honoring the world and really be of service.”
To help make his goal a reality, Hill created the Swim Up Hill Foundation to teach youth and adults how to swim.
“He wants other kids to have that joy, he wants other kids to not be scared,” Floyd-Hill said. “He loves kids being happy and he loves to see how excited they are when they can jump in and come up.”
Swim Up Hill has programs that allow people to learn from their homes as well as a five-hour swim course. Hill is also partnering with the Angel City Games by implementing his swim curriculum in their para swim programming.
Hill also used his sponsorship with Speedo to help several members of Team USA by providing them with the proper swimwear to compete.
“He knows how hard it is and a lot of them didn’t have sponsors,” Floyd-Hill said. “He felt that if you used his allotment of skill to share goggles, swim caps … that it would help them and improve their swim.”
It is evident that the promise he made with God is paying off. Through Speedo’s Make Waves campaign, Hill’s likeness was featured in billboards; one of the ads were on a building off the 405 freeway near LAX and in Venice beach. Hill noted that this was validation that he is making a powerful impact.
“I freaking loved it, I think the whole city loved it,” Hill said. “In some ways, I felt like I have a little bit more attention internationally than I do in my hometown, so to start to embody this hometown hero … as we say ‘hood famous.’”