Nina Bezzant maneuvers around the Kino Aquatic Center pool deck on a scooter to catch up with her Mesa Mountain View teammates.
Born without the lower part of her left leg, Bezzant, a 5-foot-4 freshman who continues to grow, recently has been bothered by a bone spur where a prosthetic normally goes.
In the swimming pool, it’s all good.
No pain. All gain.
“It doesn’t affect swimming, which is nice,” she said.
Bezzart is a few weeks into her first high school swim season. But this isn’t her first time competing. She’s been a part of the Mesa Aquatic Club for five years, getting up early for two-hour workouts, and back at in the afternoon for more work in the pool.
Those are her victories.
Swimming has been an outlet for a girl who was born with a congenital birth defect 15 years ago when she came into the world with her left leg halfway down the shin missing.
“It was a really challenging pregnancy” said Julie, Nina’s mom. “We didn’t know what the issues would be. We knew there would be something. When it was her leg. We thought, ‘This is no big deal. We can do this.’
“There were all sorts of scenarios that she would not survive at all. But it’s never been daunting.”
The worst thing is dealing with the pain that comes with growth spurts and having to have another surgery.
“She is growing into her bone,” Julie said. “That leg, it always wants to outgrow. They have to go in and trim it back.”
Swimming has provided an outlet.
“It’s nice to have a sport that I can do that doesn’t involve running,” Bezzant said.
She hobbles to the platform, climbs on the block and, balancing on one leg, dives into the pool with the rest of her teammates. She cuts through the water with strong upper-body strokes and kicks, keeping pace with the others.
The water is soothing to her leg. The competition, the practice, has helped her confidence.
“She loves to swim,” Julie said. “And it’s a place where it equals things out for her.
“Yes, it’s amazing. There are times I see her swimming and realized, ‘Oh, this is probably really challenging.’ Then, I forget, this adds to the element to her life. She is amazing. I feel like she always had great coaches who always encouraged her and challenged her and celebrated with her.”
Longtime Mountain View girls swimming coach Glen Coy said he treats her no differently than the other swimmers.
“Anything we do, she does,” he said. “Even when we do kick sets, she does kick sets.
“It’s pretty cool what she does. Gets here, gets in, does all the strokes. She does the whole workout. She never asks for anything. She works hard.”
Fellow freshman swimmer Anna Thompson, a distance freestyler, is inspired by Bezzant, one of her best friends.
“I was pretty impressed when she decided to do high school (swim),” Thompson said. “I thought that was pretty brave. We don’t treat her any differently.”
Bezzant was fitted with her first prosthetic when she was 13 months. She has never felt sorry for herself. This is how she was born. She only has known how to adapt to everything around her without complaints.
“We try not to let it ever be an excuse for anything,” Julie said. “She does chores around the house, anything. She certainly can and does do whatever she wants.
“Fortunately, she was born with everything she needs inside for her to deal with it. She has the right disposition. She likes having the little stump.”
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