Paralympian Cody Bureau

Molly Bobik, Staff

Cody Bureau, a 2006 Latrobe graduate, has competed all over the world in multiple Paralympics and is now taking on the role of the Latrobe varsity swim team assistant coach.“I’ve always loved swimming,” said Bureau, “It’s always been a passion of mine.”   After Bureau’s successful fall season with the junior high swim team, Grey Arigoni, varsity swimming head coach was thrilled when he applied for the position of the varsity assistant coach.“Anytime you’re able to add a world athlete to your coaching staff,” said Arigoni, “you definitely want to. It was a perfect match.”

Around the age of six, Bureau became a swimmer, but a few years later it seemed he would never be able to swim competitively again. In June of 1996, while helping out on his family’s farm, he had a rope around his wrist and it got caught in equipment. The accident left Bureau’s left hand severed from his arm. “I wasn’t sad that I lost my hand,” said Bureau, “more so grateful that I survived.” The following weeks he spent in the hospital and cooped up in his house. That was the worst part of the injury for Bureau because he was only eight years old at the time, and he just wanted to get back out on the farm and run around.

That winter, Bureau began therapy to work through some of the injuries he sustained in his left shoulder. During that time, he re-entered the pool to continue his physical therapy. After the majority of his therapy was complete, he was recommended to join the Greater Latrobe Aqua Club. Soon after, Bureau began beating kids without disabilities. Within three short years, Bureau was suggested to attend the 1999 Minneapolis, Minnesota Disability Swimming Championship. He obtained his first American record in the 200 meter breaststroke class SB9, at the age of 11.

Five years later, after much training, Bureau attended his first Paralympics in 2004 in Athens, Greece. The young swimmer  was only 16 at the time, and still in high school. He missed the first six weeks of his Junior year, but got the opportunity of a lifetime to swim the 100 meter butterfly and 200 meter IM (Individual Medley) against some of the most highly ranked athletes in the world.

Bureau’s post high school swimming career led him to Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. He lived and trained with other olympic level athletes.  One of the best parts about the facility for Bureau was that he stayed in the room of Apolo Anton Ohno, a retired Olympic speed skater and medalist.

Bureau continued his Paralympic career when he attended Beijing, China for the 2008 Paralympics. While in Beijing, he obtained a bronze medal, which he claimed to be the highlight of his career.

In the following eight years, he also attended two more Paralympics in London, England and Rio, Brazil. At each of these competitions, Bureau was given the opportunity to meet and hangout with Olympians such as Michael Phelps, Jason Lessack, and Gary Holt. Bureau divulged that he knew Phelps before he had won any of his Olympic medals. As Bureau got to witness other Olympic athletes’ wins he said, “All those feats became so much more incredible being that I got to know the people behind the medals.”

Bureau currently holds records in American Short Course events. The length of a short course pool would be 25 meters. Those records include 50 meter butterfly, 50 meter backstroke, and 100 meter IM (Individual Medley). In American Long Course events, 50 meters, Bureau also holds records in the 50, 100, and  200 meter butterfly and 200 meter IM.  

As an eight year old boy with a tragic injury, it could have been easy to just give up, but that was not in Bureau’s plans.“It’s mind blowing,” said Bureau, “to take something that could have been a horrible event and all the sudden turn it into the best thing in the world.”

As the assistant coach, Bureau is looking forward to improving not only the swimmers, but the personality behind each swimmer. He wants to change “can’t do” attitudes into “can do”. “When I hear somebody say they can’t it’s like you’re selling yourself short. You’ve already given up. You’ve already lost,” said Bureau.

Bureau’s impact on the team can be seen throughout each swimmer. Home schooler and Junior swimmer David Marinchack said, “When Cody hears us complain he says ‘What do you mean your arms are sore or your hands are sore? I Only have one hand.’” Though comical, this idea pushes the swimmers to try their hardest because it reinforces the idea that anything is possible no matter the circumstances.

As a person who has been near death, Bureau says, “Carpe diem. Seize the day.” He continues to seize the life.