“When I first arrived at this campus in middle school, it had a bit of a medieval feel to it,” Perkins joked of the renovations during his time. “Some of the earliest memories I have of this school are that of acceptance, which was something that was taught to me from a young age by my parents.
“I can recall being greeted by Allison Fleming, who was head of the middle school at the time,” he said. “It’s imaginable that the school had communicated with my parents regarding my needs. Students here treated me as though I were any other student and, although I’d sometimes catch people with that ‘deer in the headlights’ look, I never had trouble with anyone. Actually, I may have avoided some of the usual drama that occurs during the awkward middle school/high school years.
“Do I regret missing out on any of the drama associated with being a teenager? Not at all,” he continues lightheartedly, receiving a roar of laughter once again from the crowd. “I can reassure you, there are no ‘cool’ teenagers.”
Perkins’ sense of humor and sense of delivery are well-honed, for in the rare down time he has away from training, he loves standup comedy.
Perkins learned to swim at the age of 12, for what he said was “my parents wanted me to not die in the ocean.” Seemingly taking naturally to the water, he found it was a great form of exercise.
The Paralympics began in 1948, as a way for injured British veterans to compete. While the first formal events took place in 1963, with 400 athletes from 23 countries participating, decades following would see the overall expansion of the competition as well as a closer association with Olympics.
Once he made the U.S. national team in 2005, there was no stopping Perkins.
The Bishop alumnus earned 11 medals in total, including a gold and a bronze medal at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, two silver and two bronze medals at the 2012 Paralympics in London and one gold and one silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
At the end of his inspiring presentation, Perkins was given “The Bishop’s Medal” from the head of school, Aimeclaire Rocheas, as well as a standing ovation. Bishop’s School students then approached the podium with precise questions, all thanking Perkins for providing such a genuine treat early on in their school day.
A student inquired how much training is required for the Paralympics.
“We train as hard, if not harder than most able-bodied athletes,” said Perkins. “I practice five to six days a week, as well as participate in extensive weight and dry-land training.”
When asked about his favorite part of being a Paralympian, Perkins says “Standing in front of the large crowds in another country. Seeing how they follow their athletes on an international level is huge.”
Perkins will return to Stanford and begin his training for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.