iLocal News Archives

Special Olympic swimmer from Orlando conquers Alcatraz

By Stephen Ruiz From Orlando Sentinel

In 59-degree water, in the shadow of a notorious federal prison that has been closed since 1963, Gregg Dedic is comfortable.

In his full-body wetsuit, the Orlando man is prepared to propel himself to the shore 1.5 miles away. Dedic is a long-distance swimmer but never this far, never in a challenge he always wanted to face: the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim in San Francisco three weeks ago.

“The water is cold,’’ said Dedic, 31. “You get tired from swimming in the water, and you have to see how far you can go. It gets tiring, but you just keep on going until you get done.’’

Dedic is one determined Special Olympian.

He has Marfan Syndrome — a disease affecting the body’s connective tissue that, some believe, afflicted Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln and Michael Phelps — and is mildly mentally retarded. That has not stopped him, especially in the eight years that he has tested himself in the open water.

Dedic has been so successful that one wall of his bedroom is covered with gold medals. Silver medals adorn another wall.

“It’s one of the activities that [Special Olympians] do that they’re in the top 1 percent of the population, where otherwise in life, they’re quite a bit challenged,’’ said Dr. Lucky Meisenheimer, one of Dedic’s coaches. “This gives them that pillar that they need to look back on in life to say, ‘Well, if I can do this, I can do other things.’’’

Dedic has been a swimmer for 17 years, but he did not venture outside of the pool and embrace longer distances until he took part in Lucky’s Lake Swim. The one-kilometer course, back and forth, across Lake Cane in Orlando has been a rite of passage for so many, and Dedic was no different.

The SeaWorld Orlando employee normally completes the course two or three times.

“Lucky was like, ‘I want him to swim the lake,’’’ said Pam Osborne, Dedic’s mother. “I was like, ‘No way is my son getting in the lake.’ He likes it. There’s a lot of people there. Obviously, no one has gotten eaten by an alligator, so we’ll go with that.’’

Said Dedic: “Swimming helped me improve what I could be. It helped me be better and meet new people, have fun and see how everything goes.’’

Dedic has dabbled in other sports, such as paddleboarding, track and tennis, but swimming swayed him. He has been an area, county and state Special Olympian several times over, and he earned a silver medal at the nationalSpecial Olympics games in Lincoln, Neb., in 2010.

His next goal is to qualify for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“We just got back from doing the Cayman Islands [open-water swim],’’ said Apryle Nickson, another of Dedic’s coaches. “There are a thousand people, and they all go at the same time. He is not worried he is going to get kicked or hurt, but he is in a crowd.

“He knows how to prepare himself for this.’’

Dedic trains five or six days a week, either at the YMCA on International Drive or Lake Cane.

He placed 12th in his age group at Alcatraz in 38 minutes, 57.4 seconds. More than 800 swimmers participated in the 25th annual endurance event, race organizer David Horning said.

“I thought I could be good [at swimming], but I pushed myself even harder,’’ Dedic said. “And it got me a lot faster.’’

And a lot farther.

For more on this story go to:


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *