D.C.’s Mallory Weggemann had never been swimming until her first competition at age 7. She fell in love with the pool that same year.
But in 2000, she was deemed too young to compete at the Paralympic level because of her use of a wheelchair, a limitation that She said “scared” her, and in 2001, her parents took her off her swimming scholarship and retired her as a competitor.
But her dream of competing with able-bodied athletes persisted. She decided to pursue it as a wheelchair athlete, a bid that paid off.
In 2014, she shattered her own Paralympic records for the 100-meter backstroke and 50 freestyle, finishing second in the 200 freestyle race. She is the only athlete to ever make the five-member USA Paralympic Swim Team from his wheelchair.
Just this February, she helped the Americans take home two gold and two silver medals at the Youth Paralympic Games. While she was in the pool, she said, “swimming saved my life.”