Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann discusses how to set and achieve your dreams and goals. Mallory has been a competitive swimmer since the age of seven. On January 21, 2008, she went to the hospital to receive her third and final epidural injection that she was receiving to help treat back pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia. The epidural injections that were supposed to help with the debilitating pain instead left Mallory a paraplegic with complete loss of movement from her abdomen down.
Just three months after her injury at the age of 18, Weggemann chose to return to the pool. In April 2008, her older sister found an article in the local newspaper discussing the Paralympic Swimming Trials at the University of Minnesota. Through the encouragement of her family, Mallory attended the meet as a spectator with her sister and met several of the US National Team coaches, as well as her former coach, Jim Andersen. Still coping with her new disability, Weggemann found one thing unchanged, her love for swimming.
Less than a year and a half later, Mallory broke her first set of world records at the 2009 Can Am Speedo Para Swim Meet. Over the next four years she broke 34 American Records, 15 World Records, becoming a twelve time World Champion and became a two Paralympic Medalist at the London 2012 Games – one gold, the other bronze. Weggemann’s Gold Medal race has been deemed one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 London Games, inspiring audiences around the world. Although the London 2012 Games weren’t the end for Mallory’s swimming career.
Following the London 2012 Games Mallory launched her career as a highly sought after motivational speaker and began her training for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Although, in 2014 fate would leave Weggemann with another twist in her athletic journey after she sustained permanent nerve damage to her left arm. Faced with the reality of potentially having to retire Weggemann decided that she wasn’t willing to give up on her dream of the Rio 2016 Games without a fight.
“As hard as life can get in certain moments, there’s always a way to move forward,” Mallory said. “We just have to choose to move forward. I knew how to do that. I learned that after my paralysis. I knew I had the strength to do it. I just had to find that again.” Weggemann returned to the water, her sanctuary and looked to the black line as she fought her way back. With the support of her coach, Steve Van Dyne, Weggemann began her comeback. When Mallory talks about her comeback following injury she says, “It takes a community, it takes a belief that you can be better, that you can fight back, that you can defy all odds and that you do not have to be a victim of your circumstance. A comeback is about the desire to redefine all limitations, having the courage to do what many would call impossible, the passion for what you love to do and most of all having the grace to know when you simply cannot do it alone.”
Weggemann is now a two-time Paralympian and will be training for the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games.