American Water Polo

Chicago's Tommy Shimoda Making a Mark in Water Polo & More

by Daisy Lake Costello

BRIDGEPORT, Pa. -- Chicago-native Tommy Shimoda has had quite a stellar year.

In March 2017, the 24 year -old Mt. Greenwood, Illinois native competed in the Special Olympics in Schladming, Austria, as Chicago’s only representative. There, he took home two medals for the United States in speed skating: a gold medal in the 500-meter race and a bronze in the 777-meter race.

In July 2017, Shimoda was presented with an honorary ESPY in a sellout event at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California.

In September 2017, Tommy would become the first ever Special Olympian to be inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and received a custom Wheaties box featuring an action shot of him speed skating.

“These were big wigs inducted,” said Frank Mulcrone, head of the Chicago Aquatic & Polo Club and Shimoda’s coach.

Former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood. Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews. Former Notre Dame wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown. Among these athletes sat Tommy, a 24-year old, non-verbal Special Olympian who adds his induction to a long list of accolades he has garnered in 2017.

“The community rallies around him,” says Mulcrone.

In what has been a whirlwind of a year for Shimoda and his family, that much is evident. Prior to his departure to the 2017 Special Olympics in Schladming, Austria, the community hosted a send off for Tommy, complete with a Chicago Police Department helicopter fly-over, a performance by a bagpipe band and a parade around the park in a convertible.

“It was unbelieveable. I was thinking we’d get a handful of people out there, have some hot cocoa, mill around a little bit. I didn’t know what this whole event would be, I was just responsible for having coffee and bagels,” said Tommy’s mother, Barb De Kerf.

“It was just magnificent, the whole community was there, Tommy rode in on a convertible into this event with some kids in the car with him, we had the fire department out there, there must have been 300 people out there, even people we didn’t know!”

Mulcrone knows firsthand how much Tommy has accomplished athletically. Mulcrone’s wife, Lisa, has worked with Tommy directly for years as the Special Recreation Coordinator for the Chicago Parks District at Mt. Greenwood Park. So, when Mulcrone aimed to start a water polo club at Mt. Greenwood Park, he said De Kerf jumped at the opportunity to have him participate.

“When Frank started this water polo program, Tommy is always up for something. Frank said, ‘Hey, come along, there’s a place for him on our team’,” DeKerf said.

But for Mulcrone, and for the rest of his program, Tommy has found other ways to lend a helping hand. Mulcrone says that he has been invaluable in helping in a variety of ways, from blowing up nets to getting balls together before and after practice, acting as a team manager in many ways. Tommy also appears in goal and finds little ways to help the team’s offense. Tommy also has the ability to help the younger players, many of whom have never played water polo before.

“When we started the program, 64 of 68 of the kids had never touched a water polo ball before, so Tommy helped some of the younger kids,” Mulcrone said.

“With some of the kids we didn’t know what we were getting into, coaches were volunteering.

"I was able to say, 'Hey Tommy - get the blow up nets ready,' and he was able to set up courses,” he continued.

Tommy, who competes in a number of different sports, is an avid swimmer and hockey player. It is the combination of these sports, Mulcrone says, that allows him to help younger, less experienced water polo players.

“Having Tommy at the goal, it was nice to have someone a little bit older to set up everyone instead of everyone wandering around. Tommy played hockey and all these other sports so he has a basic understanding of offenses,” Mulcrone said.

And for DeKerf, it is encouraging to sit in the stands and watch Tommy in goal with the other kids on the water polo team.

“From my perspective, I’m sitting outside of the pool and I’m listening to them, they love Tommy so you can hear their excitement when he’s stopping or catching the ball,” she said. “When you hear those kids, you’re hearing them talk to him, so for him it makes him try even harder to get involved in the game and gives him a sense of ‘They recognize what I’m doing here.”

Tommy’s presence alone has helped get Mulcrone’s water polo club off the ground because he has a willingness to be helpful and to get things to run smoothly.

“He won’t miss a beat,” Mulcrone notes about Tommy.

De Kerf gives an immense amount of credit to Mulcrone and his coaching staff for giving Tommy an opportunity to play the sport of water polo, because for Tommy and other special needs kids swimming is a comfort and something they can control. For De Kerf, opportunity and inclusion matter when talking about special needs kids participating in sports.

“He [Frank] gave my kid a chance, and Tommy loves it. That’s a big part of the message; opportunity and inclusion, because these kids can do it,” she said.

His athletic accomplishments will likely not stop with his medals in Austria. Tommy is preparing to compete in the Special Olympics World Games in another sport: gymnastics.

“I’m not sure where gymnastics will be for the world games, but wherever it is, our bags are packed,” De Kerf said.

“It’s a really great community story. Everything is going with this kid,” Mulcrone said.

For an athlete who competes in a different sport every day, Tommy Shimoda has found another opportunity for competition with water polo, and his mother says he looks forward to getting back in the pool soon.

 

Two-Time Olympian Brad Schumacher to Host Co-Ed Clinic on November 18 at the United States Naval Academy

BRIDGEPORT, Pa. — The Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) in conjunction with American Water Polo (AWP) will host a Water Polo Clinic with two-time Olympian/SET Water Polo head coach/KAP7 co-founder Brad Schumacher on Saturday, November 18, at the United States Naval Academy’s Lejeune Hall during the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) Championship.

The clinic is open to all male and female athletes between the ages of 10-18 and collegiate club players.

The clinic will run from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at a cost of $65 per athlete (prior to November 1).  Late registration after November 1 will be $75.

Individuals who attend the clinic will also receive four tickets for the MAWPC Championship, a championship program and Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) souvenir mug, AWP and CWPA decals, the clinic instruction and a photo with
Schumacher.

Following the clinic, an All-Star game with athletes from across the Mid-Atlantic Region will be held.  Athletes who are invited to compete in the All-Star game can register to compete below at a cost of $50.  Athletes that choose to participate in both the clinic and All-Star game can register prior to November 1 at a cost of $75 ($85 after November 1).

For additional information on the clinic and/or All-Star game, contact the league office via email at  office@collegiatewaterpolo.org or by phone (between the hours of 9:00 a.m.-to-6:00 p.m. on Monday-through-Friday) at 610-277-6787.  

About Brad Schumacher:

A former freestyle swimmer, Schumacher won two gold medals as a member of the United States Men’s 4×100 meter and 4×200 meter Freestyle Relay Teams at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Four years later, he was a member of the US Men’s Water Polo Team that placed in sixth place at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

The only aquatics athlete in the world to become a world champion in both swimming and water polo, he competed in the 1998 World Championships in both sports to become the first athlete to compete simultaneously at the World Class level since Bob Hughes at the 1956 Olympic Games.

He joined an elite group of athletes to compete in both sports at a world championship level as only Duke Khanamoku, Johnny Weissmuller, Bob Hughes and Matt Biondi also competed in water polo and swimming on the world level.

Schumacher has not strayed far from his roots as he co-founded with fellow Olympian Wolf Wigo Kap7, Inc., a commercial pool equipment and supply company, and serves as head coach of SET Water Polo Club in South Orange County, California.

To register for either the clinic and/or All-Star game, use the sign-up form available on the CWPA website by CLICKING HERE.