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Deaf swimmer going for the gold

There were only a few days left before Sunday’s fund-raiser and Susanne Williams had enough items to fill the deep end of a swimming pool.

Williams is waiting for a Patrick Kaleta jersey from the Buffalo Sabres, but she already has sterling silver bracelets, a 10-piece Rachel Ray cookware set, a flat screen television and an iPod Nano, with more on the way. The Kaleta item should raffle off quickly along with the passes for Darien Lake, Fantasy Island and Sky Zone.

The reason for the fund-raiser is Scott Farrell, a native of North Tonawanda and a gifted swimmer who according to Williams, his loving mother, can do anything he puts his mind to athletically. She claims he can uncork a football 60 yards and you’re convinced it’s not a fish tale considering how much Farrell has accomplished in his 21 years.

Next month Farrell will add to his achievements and will be one of the nearly 15,000 athletes competing in the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria. At the Deaflympics, Farrell will swim in the 50 and 100 meters and 200 freestyle, and on relay teams in the 400 and 800 free. He hopes to swim in the 400 medley relay as well.

“I am extremely honored to represent not only my hometown but represent the USA and that is thrilling to me,” Farrell said via e-mail. “I am eager to see what I can bring for my team and in the competition as well.”

There are more than 275 items to be raffled off, mostly from Western New York businesses, in a show of support for Farrell.

“It feels awesome to have the whole Tonawanda community behind me, supporting me to do my best and motivating me to perform my best at the Deaflympics,” Farrell said. “I thank them for that and I am proud to be a resident of the Tonawanda community.”

The feeling is mutual. Williams made a banner with sponsors’ logos that stretches 30 feet and when it comes time to write thank-you cards, Farrell will fill out more than 300. Two years ago, when he traveled to Portugal to compete in the World Deaf Swimming Championship, Williams made 75 gift baskets to raffle off.

“The generosity of the people has been overwhelming,” Williams said. “This time around with Scottie going to the deaf Olympics and this being the highest competition he will ever attain, they’re just thrilled to help out.”

But Farrell’s biggest supporter is his mother.

“There is a lot that she had done for me throughout my life and I appreciate that for her dedication of having what is best for me,” he said. “She has been a great mom to me and she is a strong-willed woman that has always been there for me as my family does and she has worked hard to do what is best for me. She never gives up as she goes through tough times but she never let that hold her back and she somehow always succeed.”

Farrell was destined to blossom into a great swimmer. Williams started swimming at age 6, competed for Kenmore East, and coached at the Ken-Ton YMCA. Farrell’s father, Brian, swam at Kenmore West while his grandfather, Ray Rebmann, was a coach at the YMCA for 13 years.

“I have to admit that my mother’s swimming career achievements has to be better than mine and her achievements have been outstanding,” said Farrell, who attended North Tonawanda High School and now swims for Rochester Institute of Technology. “But she tells me that I am the fastest in the family.”

He grew up playing soccer but eventually ventured into the family “business.” The first time he walked into the pool at North Tonawanda, he glanced at the list of the school’s record holders posted on a wall. Farrell tapped his mother on the shoulder.

“I want to be on that board,’’ he said. “I want to break a record.”

After two meets as an eighth grader, Farrell was pulled up to varsity. Two years later, he was the Niagara Frontier League champion in the 100 freestyle. What’s even more impressive is that Farrell always started late because he couldn’t hear the starter’s tone and took off when the others did.

Then teammate Brett Kozlowski made Farrell a light in BOCES class and hooked it up to the timer so he could start at the same time as everyone else. Soon after, Farrell broke the pool record in the 100 free.

His success has continued at RIT, where in February he was part of a relay team – along with Matt Berus from Williamsville North – that broke the school’s 200- and 800-yard freestyle relay records. The 800-meter mark was 29 years old.

“He’s accomplished what he’s always wanted to accomplish since he was 5 years old,” Williams said. “He’s doing it.”

But this will be Farrell’s final international competition. An engineering major with a year of eligibility remaining at RIT, Farrell wants to do more hunting and shooting bird clays.

“I have achieved tremendously over the last eight years,” Farrell said. “I have reached many of my personal goals and I have achieved most of them relating to my swimming career. I plan to stop competing as soon I complete my fourth and last season as a RIT swimmer.

“Maybe I will do masters down the road and hopefully I’ll be able to perform well. … I want to be able to use my successes as my motivation of how much I have gone through and use that to push myself through any obstacles that I would encounter.”