Gville woman picked for U.S. Assn. of Blind Athletes program

The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes has announced 20 athletes to its 2024 USABA Sport Ambassador Program. And a Gainesville woman, swimmer and triathlete McClain Hermes, is one of them.


At the age of 4, Hermes, who trains in Colorado Springs, dove into the pool and instantly felt at home.

After she completed her first season of competitive swimming, she told her parents that she would go to the Olympics. Not only did she say that she was going to go to the Olympics, but she wanted to win a gold medal.

One day, with no warnings, Hermes went blind.

The first question she asked her mom when she went blind was if she would still be able to swim, and that was when they learned about the Paralympics.

After healing from her eye surgeries, Hermes was able to get back in the pool and quickly switched her sights from competing in the Olympics to becoming a Paralympic champion.

At the age of 15, she made one dream come true. She competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games. She was the youngest athlete on all of Team USA and shocked everyone when she made the finals for the 100 backstroke and finished 8th in the world. In 2017, Hermes became the world champion in the 400 freestyles as well as winning two silver medals and two bronze medals.

She represented Team USA at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, competing in four events: the 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke, 200 IM, and 400 freestyle. She finished 6th in the world in the 400 freestyle. After her success in Tokyo at the Paralympic Games, Hermes decided to try her hand at a new sport and transitioned from Para swimming to Paratriathlon. Her goal is to compete in the 2024 and 2028 Paralympic Games as a triathlete. 

“Swimming is my love and my passion, but I also have a deep passion for public speaking,” says Hermes. “I enjoy speaking about my story and my journey. My journey of going blind and then becoming a Paralympic swimmer. I want to educate people about the Paralympics and what I can do even if I am perceived as ‘disabled’ I believe that I am ‘enabled’. I want to show other kids that even if I am different and have to do things a little differently, that I can still accomplish and do everything that they do. I want to show other blind kids and adults that we can do whatever we want even if people tell us we cannot do something because we are blind. To me, the Paralympic movement means sharing how truly strong we all are in our own ways and the ways that we can overcome obstacles in the face of adversity. Through my public speaking I will be able to share what the Paralympics mean and spread the message that we can all say ‘I’m possible’. Through the USABA Ambassador Program, I hope to show those around me that you can always ‘Just Keep Swimming.’”