Mallory Weggemann: ‘Swimming saved my life,’ says five-time Paralympic medalist

That’s when 18-year-old Weggemann needed an epidural to treat her back pain, and complications from the procedure left her paralyzed from the waist down. “It’s with me every day in the four wheels beneath me.”

Forced to negotiate a new lifestyle, the Minnesota native recalls how she felt in the months that followed.

“I didn’t know what life would be like with paralysis or what it would mean for my future. Everything around me had changed – the way I moved, the way I looked, my reflection in the mirror. “, Weggemann told CNN Sport’s Wire Coy.

In trying to contemplate his new path ahead, Weggemann turned to an old passion.

“When I went back to the pool, I realized it was the only place that hadn’t changed: water was water, chlorine was chlorine. It bridged the gap between me and the past and gave me a way forward.”

Weggemann emphasized when she said, “Swimming really saved my life in so many ways.”

Mallory Weggemann said that, after being paralyzed, swimming

One of the reasons that made it difficult for Weggemann to accept her disability, aside from the physical challenges, was the image of disabled people presented to her.

“We see disability in society as something to be pitied: a worst-case outcome. We don’t see the potential within.”

Meet the 17-year-old swimmer and TikTok star who won a Paralympic gold medal
Weggemann is an example of that potential, with a long list of accomplishments. Most will know her name from her athletic achievements; She has been a mainstay of USA Swimming since the 2009 World Championships, and she recently won two gold and one silver medals in a postponed match. Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

But Weggemann, who has become proud of her disability, is quick to point out that’s not her whole identity.

“Society wants to let me know what life is like for people with disabilities. The fact that I have been married for 5 years, dream of a family, I am a business owner, an athlete. All these things. speaking society is not for people like me.”

Not to mention the author, with her book “Limitless,” which hit shelves earlier this year.

Weggemann won two gold and one silver at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Paralympics this year.

Weggemann is particularly proud of his business, TFA Group, which aims to “change the perception of people with disabilities in our society through the power of storytelling.”

Weggemann and her husband Jay are co-CEOs and work diligently to spread stories of overcoming adversity with projects like their short documentary series “Impact Films” about athletes with disabilities with disabilities. can be found on major streaming platforms.

But even her work with the TFA brought Weggemann back to the water. One such project she worked on was the 2018 short film “Amazing Grace,” the story of 14-year-old Grace Bunke, a swimmer who lost her battle with childhood cancer. young.

Weggemann had the chance to swim and spend a day with Grace in 2018, and the young athlete’s passion for fundraising for childhood cancer left a lasting impression on the athlete. Paralympics in the United States, leading to a documentary documenting Grace’s fight.

Weggemann swam in Grace’s honor at a “Swim Through America” ​​event in Atlanta earlier this year. She has been joined by Grace’s mother Vicki, who has swam 14 meetups in honor of her daughter (once a year in Grace’s life) with grants and race research proceeds. cancer.

“Grace is a young woman with the will to live, she can connect with the people around her. And Vicki has had the courage to share Grace with the world over the years since then, so swimming with her is so much fun.” It’s really special.”

For Weggemann, swimming and sports in general can

For Weggemann, it was a reminder of what her favorite sport, swimming, can be achieved beyond swimming pools, medals, awards or disability discussions.

“It’s a reminder of how far sport can go. That swimming has nothing to do with winning or racing. It’s about using sport for good and allowing it to be a sport. lighthouse to do something life-changing.”

For the five-time Paralympic medalist, swimming is an outlet for her to understand her plight, but Weggemann hopes her message will resonate beyond sport.

“We all carry our moments of hurt, grief and loss and adversity. But in the end, we’re all more than our circumstances. I hope that’s more than hearing the story. mine, I hope it encourages people to honor themselves.”


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