Vale community welcomes visit from silver medal-winning Olympic swimmer

Bella Sims takes pictures with community members at Vale City Pool .jpg
Posted at 11:45 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 08:02:29-04

VALE, Oregon — A silver medal-winning Olympic athlete with ties to Malheur County made a stop in Vale.

Bella Sims returned from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where she won a silver medal in the 4x 200-meter Freestyle Relay. She started swimming at 10-years-old.

“Watching all the swimmers get world records and the reactions and I would get goosebumps after every race, it was insane,” Sims said.

Vale is a special place for Sims. She would visit to spend time with her grandparents, who now live in Ontario.

Sherri Hironaka, Sim’s grandmother, organized the event at Vale City Pool. It was a chance for kids and community members to take pictures and enjoy a friendly race with Sims.

“It’s been a rough couple of years in the world and having something like a bright spot that is hopeful and happy has been really meaningful. I think she wants to have a voice and platform for something good and positive in the world and I think she will,” Hironaka said.

Tom Vialpando, the mayor of Vale, said it was a positive experience having Sims visit the community.

“When we have youth bring out this many people in the community, It’s a great event,” he said.

Sims said her grandmother had made t-shirts, and people were purchasing them to support her. She knew she wanted to come back to thank them and hopes to inspire the next generation of swimmers.

“It’s so fun to get to meet all the little kids. Well, I just hope the kids know they don’t have to start as early as other swimmers.”