The Klotz siblings of Cameron Park were rarely more than a pool’s length apart when they swam for Vista Del Lago High School and the Sierra Marlins Swim Team.
That changed when Stephanie Klotz, 22, began swimming for Alabama in 2012. Her brother Matthew Klotz, 20, signed with LSU in 2014 after establishing himself as one of the world’s fastest deaf swimmers.
Stephanie and Matthew will reunite for one more swim meet starting Sunday: the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. Though neither is expected to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, they’re excited about being at the same meet again.
“I’m so happy that we can share the experience,” Stephanie Klotz said.
“I know my sister and I are going to take a lot of pictures together and will cherish it,” said Matthew Klotz, who answered questions by email from Baton Rouge, La.
Stephanie and Matthew didn’t always get along so well. Like many siblings close in age, they fought frequently when they were growing up. But now they encourage and inspire each other.
“We are both very goal-driven characters. I always looked up to her,” Matthew Klotz said.
“I think we have a special relationship,” Stephanie Klotz said. “I’m very proud of all that he’s done, and all he’s had to overcome with being deaf.”
Matthew Klotz can speak clearly, and his digital hearing aids allow him to hear at an almost normal level. But he can’t wear his aids in the pool, so he has adapted by learning how to read lips and focusing on visual cues.
“(Matthew) finds a way to understand almost everything that happens in a day-to-day workout,” said Scott Shea, Sierra Marlins coach. “You wouldn’t know he was deaf if you didn’t communicate with him frequently.”
“Being born deaf has made me who I am,” Klotz said. “It’s taught me to accept myself and to accept things in life that can’t be changed.”
His patience was tested in the past year, when lingering concussion symptoms forced him to take a medical leave from LSU. He redshirted his freshman season and was unable to train for five months.
“The worst part was not knowing how long the recovery was going to last,” he said. “But I know I made the right call on going home to get better again and to come back stronger.”
Klotz quickly regained his speed after being cleared to swim in February. He met the Olympic Trials qualifying standards for the 100- and 200-meter backstroke events at two meets this month, and broke his own deaf world records in both events. He’s seeded 49th of 192 qualifiers in the 100, and 106th of 123 in the 200.
His sister has been waiting for her 200 breaststroke race at the Olympic Trials for two years. Though her best times in the 100 and 200 breaststroke are among the 10 fastest in the history of Alabama women’s swimming, she’s seeded 113th of 125 qualifiers in the 200 trials.
Klotz graduated from Alabama in May with a 4.0 GPA in communicative disorders. She said seeing her brother thrive inspired her to help people who are hearing impaired have the same opportunities as people with normal hearing. She will begin a doctorate program in audiology at the University of Washington this fall.
She said the Olympic Trials will be her final meet.
“I’m excited to move on from swimming, but also sad, because it’s been my whole life,” she said.
Matthew Klotz looks forward to four more years of swimming at LSU, his second Deaflympics in 2017, and another Olympic Trials in 2020. After that, he hopes to become a college swimming coach.
Their parents, Dean and Linda Klotz, will be in Omaha to watch their races. Matthew will swim the 100 backstroke on Monday and the 200 backstroke on Thursday. Stephanie’s 200 breaststroke race also is Thursday.
The siblings are grateful for their parents’ support, including driving them to 4:30 a.m. practices and cheering for them at meets.
“None of this would have been possible without them,” Stephanie said.
Josh Mandell: 916-321-1071
U.S. Olympic Trials swimming
- When: Sunday-July 3
- Where: Omaha, Neb.
- TV: Ch. 3, Sunday-Friday, 8 p.m., July 3, 7 p.m.; NBCSN, daily coverage, times vary