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Young Swimmer’s Selfless Gesture To Fallen Rival Will Make Your Day, Week, Year

  • Rick Chandler

Meet nine-year-old Josh Zuchowski, an age-group swimming champ from Jupiter, Florida, who has a pretty intense rivalry going with Reese Branzell, 10, from nearby Lake Lytle. The two usually finish 1-2 when they compete against each other, and each own a roomful of trophies and medals, as you can see in the photo (that’s Josh on the left, Reese on the right).

Josh was expecting another tough battle with his rival at the Santa Claus Invitational on Dec. 7, but when he and his dad checked the entry sheet, Reese wasn’t on it. They soon discovered that Reese had been hospitalized on Nov. 8 with a bacterial hip infection, and would be out of competition for some time.

And this is where it starts getting very dusty in here.

“Josh got very emotional and he just said, ‘Dad I feel horrible for him, is there something we can do?’’’ Josh’s father, Jonathan Zuchowski, told TODAY.com. “Then he said, ‘I expect to win five gold medals in this meet, so what do you think if I swim for him and if I win the high point trophy, I’ll give it to him?’

“He wrote the card he was going to give Reese before he even swam the race. The card said, ‘I swam for you today, and I want to give you this trophy.’’’

Finally, a trophy presentation of which we can all be proud.

Here’s the part that has me, um, battling this darned allergy:

When it was over, he gave the trophy to Reese’s swim coach with a card that read, “I am so sorry that you have not been feeling well. Get well soon. So we can get back to battling in the pool. I have looked up to you since I was seven. You were an inspiration for me wanting to swim fast. I would rather get second with you at the meet then win with you absent. I won this trophy for you today. I hope to see (you) back in the pool. Your friend, Josh.’’

Reese’s family was blown away by the gesture.

“They said it was the single nicest act that anyone has ever done for him and his family,’’ Jonathan said.

Josh, to Today:

“I can’t believe I’m getting all this attention for doing the right thing.”

Well Josh, it’s just that we’re so excited to see a sports story that doesn’t include the terms “charges were dropped”, or “PEDs.” This nine-year-old may have given up his trophy, but he’s won our hearts.

Post script: Reese is out of the hospital and is expected to make a comeback in the pool before too long. And the two are better friends than ever.

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