Andrew Bremer began playing soccer at age 5, and by age 7, he was trying out for a travel soccer team made up of 9-year-olds. The Grand Rapids resident, who has cerebral palsy, said he was following in the footsteps of his older siblings.
“I’m part of a pretty active family,” Bremer said. “My older sister swam Division I at Rice University and my brother played hockey at Hope College. I’m the third of four kids, so right away, I was thrown into sports because my older siblings played sports.”
Bremer continued playing soccer throughout high school for East Grand Rapids and while attending Kalamazoo College. In 2015, he found out about the Paralympics and realized he qualified.
“I joined the team in the fall,” he said. “I found out about the Paralympic soccer team through a tweet by the U.S. Women’s team. They were in their World Cup in the summer of 2015 and the team qualified for Rio in the summer and the women’s team sent out a congratulatory tweet to the Paralympic team and tagged them in the tweet.
“I clicked on the profile for the Paralympic team and found out I qualified. I emailed the head coach, and he invited me out for a training camp later that fall. So, I actually got involved through social media.”
Bremer participated in his first Paralympics in 2016, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He said one of the coolest things about the experience was meeting other athletes from around the world.
“At the Paralympics in Rio, that was one of the things that actually blew me away, how much mingling and learning and talking with other athletes we did,” Bremer said. “They’d give us these pins from America, and we’d trade them with other athletes and learn their stories.
“That was one of my takeaways, the power of sport to bring people together from different areas. Obviously to compete to the highest level, but the experience of it was pretty fun.”
Bremer is one of seven Olympians and Paralympians being recognized tonight at the State Games of America Opening Ceremonies, which is at 7:30 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.
Though he’s never competed in the State Games himself, Bremer said he has friends who have and he thinks it offers a similar opportunity for amateur athletes as the Paralympics or Olympics does for professional athletes.
“Maybe on a little smaller stage, but the State Games of America does a similar thing, bringing athletes across states to one spot and having them compete against each other. I think it’s a pretty cool idea, being able to represent your state, and certainly, with Grand Rapids hosting it, it’s an extra bonus.”
Bremer is in the midst of his season currently.
“We have our World Championships coming up in September in Argentina, which is our version of the World Cup. The top 16 teams in the world compete in that. It’s the second biggest event behind the Paralympics for our sport,” he said.