Bowen Becker fights through rheumatoid arthritis to thrive with Minnesota

Becker began swimming when he was about 11 years old after being diagnosed with the condition.

Junior Bowen Becker prepares for the Men's 100 Yard Freestyle during the Minnesota Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at the Jean K Freeman Aquatic Center.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Junior Bowen Becker prepares for the Men’s 100 Yard Freestyle during the Minnesota Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at the Jean K Freeman Aquatic Center.

Erik Nelson

Since he was about 11 years old,  junior Bowen Becker could only compete in swimming.

Becker couldn’t play any other sports because of rheumatoid arthritis in his knees. He said his condition does not make life for him more difficult, except when training for his Division I sport.

“It impacts the way I look into athletics and how I work out in the weight room,” Becker said. “I have to be aware of my body more than other people.”

Becker finished first in the 100-yard freestyle, completing the race in 43.18 seconds in Minnesota’s most recent meet against Northwestern and Purdue. Becker won the 50-yard freestyle, finishing the race in 19.64 seconds on the second day.

Becker was ranked as one of the top 20 recruits in the U.S. for the class of 2015. However, he wasn’t recruited by any Division I program — until one day, when head coach Kelly Kremer visited Becker’s high school, Faith Lutheran School in Las Vegas.

“He saw me swimming that day. He said, ‘You have great potential to be a great swimmer. I’ll have my spring coach call you sometime later today. Hopefully, we can talk about a trip,'” Becker said. “It went [uphill] from there.”

Kremer could not be reached for comment for this story. Associate head coach Gideon Louw said Becker likes to challenge himself in the pool.

“He likes to see how far he can push his potential,” Louw said. “He’s hungry for success. If I set him a goal time for a meet in a race, he’ll see if he [can] exceed that goal time.”

When he isn’t in the pool or studying, Becker likes to watch movies and play video games with his teammates. 

Senior Jan Hansen and Becker play video games together when they’re not competing or studying.

“We’re around each other frequently,” Hansen said. “I’ve been able to hang around [him] … He doesn’t sugarcoat anything … he also is very direct and forward as a friend.”

Minnesota will host the men’s Big Ten Championships this weekend at Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center. At last year’s Big Ten Championships in Columbus, Ohio, Becker finished fourth in both the 100-yard freestyle and the 50-yard freestyle.

Becker said it would be huge if Minnesota did well at the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships in March, which Minnesota will host.

“We talk about it a lot. We’re excited. It’s something that not many people get to experience,” Becker said. “We’re appreciative of that. It’s going to be exhilarating.”