Trischa Zorn (USA)
Honor Paralympics (2023)
FOR THE RECORD: 1980 PARALYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 100m freestyle, 200m I.M., 400m I.M., 4x100m free relay, 4x100m medley relay); 1984 PARALYMPIC GAMES: gold (50m, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 200m backstroke, 100m breaststroke, 200m, 400m I.M., 4x100m medley relay, 4x100m freestyle relay); 1988 PARALYMPIC GAMES: gold (50m, 100m, 200m breaststroke, 50m, 100m, 400m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 200m, 400m I.M., 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay; 1992 PARALYMPIC GAMES: gold (50m, 100m freestyle, 100m, 200m backstroke, 100m, 200m breaststroke, 200m, 400m I.M., 4x100m medley relay, 4x100m medley relay), silver (100m butterfly, 400m freestyle); 1996 PARALYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m backstroke, 200m I.M.), silver (50m freestyle, 400m freestyle, 4x100m medley relay), bronze (100m breaststroke, 100m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle); 2000 PARALYMPIC GAMES: silver (100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke, 100m butterfly, 200m I.M.), bronze: (50m breaststroke); 2004 PARALYMPIC GAMES: bronze (100m backstroke).
She is the most successful athlete in the history of the Paralympic and Olympic Games, winning a total of 55 Paralympic medals, competing in seven Paralympic Games. In those Games, Zorn won 41 gold, nine silver and five bronze medals, breaking eight world records.
Born and raised in Southern California, Trischa Zorn began swimming at a young age. You might never have known by her athletic ability that she was born with aniridia, a congenital eye condition and considered legally blind.
By 10, she and her sister were swimming for the Mission Viejo Nadadores where she swam for coaches Terry Stoddard and Mark Schubert. She competed on Mission Viejo’s National Team and even competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials, just missing the 1980 Olympic Team in the 100-meter backstroke by 1/100 of a second.
Trischa had been competing against regular athletes her entire life and had never even heard about the Paralympics until after her stellar performance at the 1980 Olympic Trials, when she was approached to participate. So, she decided to see what the Paralympics were all about. In June of 1980, off she went, alone, with no family members, at just 16 years old, to her first Games. She headed to Arnhem, Netherlands with the rest of the U.S. Paralympic Team to the sixth official Paralympic Games.
In Arnhem, Trischa won every event she competed in. Seven gold medals. She certainly couldn’t have done any better. The next Paralympic Games were in 1984 in New York City and this time, Trischa swam in 10 events. Again, she came away with all gold. Four years later, in 1988, the Paralympic Games merged with the Olympic Games and were held in the same venues in Seoul, South Korea. It was a huge step for Paralympic athletes. This time, Trischa competed in 12 events, 10 individual and two relays and you guessed it, she won gold in all events.
But even more than the medals, Zorn was a trailblazer in the Paralympic community. In 1992, in Barcelona, the Paralympics underwent a restructuring of categories, and until that time, she had won only gold medals, 25 of them. After the restructuring, Zorn was forced to compete against athletes who were less disabled and she came away with her first silver. Trischa’s final Games was in Atlanta, 1996, where she was chosen by the athletes of all sports to be the U.S. flag bearer in the closing ceremonies of the Games.
After the 1996 Games, Para sports continued to change. One thing not changing was equal rights in terms of training and support, which led Trischa to help start a pilot program allowing Paralympic athletes to live and train at the United States Olympic Training Center. Once approved, Zorn was one of the first athletes in the program.
Zorn was the first visually impaired athlete to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship during her collegiate years and became a four-time All-American backstroker at the University of Nebraska. She eventually went on to study law at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
Trischa was inducted into the International Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2012 and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2022, and tonight, she becomes the first Paralympic athlete ever to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, once again leading the way as she has so many times before.