Paralympic Gold Medalist Mallory Weggemann is striving for another gold medal this summer in Tokyo while continuing to make an impact outside the pool.
It did not look good for Mallory Weggeman at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Time was running out quickly.
“I was in about fifth or sixth place when you watch the video at the 25-meter mark in a 50-meter race,” Weggemann said. “I didn’t pull into medal contention until maybe the last three meters and I didn’t win the race until my last arm stroke.”
Weggemann chose at the moment to put her head down and fight as hard as possible even when logic was screaming at her the race was over. Determination, resilience and endless belief won by three-tenths of a second. Weggemann learned a lesson that she carries with her today as she approaches the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in 2021.
“For me, that race is kinda my go back to my kinda mental catalog of moments in my life of, ‘remember that one time I became Paralympic champion in the final arm stroke of a race,’ as in never stop fighting for what you believe in until that race is over because anything can happen and that day I fought for every inch of that pool,” Weggemann told FanSided in a lengthy interview.
Being in the race after becoming paralyzed just over four years prior at 18-years old was an amazing accomplishment and a testament to Weggemann’s indomitable will. An epidural steroid injection to treat back pain changed her life in ways she never imagined walking into a hospital she would not walk out of. Moving forward was not easy initially.
“I was asking a lot the ‘why me’s’ and ‘what-ifs’ but at the same time, I was trying to find a way to grieve and put my life back together as best as I knew how,” Weggemann recalled.
Along the path of putting her life back together and winning a gold medal, Weggemann has earned a graduate-level degree on what it is like to live with a disability. It has been both painful and wildly rewarding in ways she would never have imagined.
“I felt like after my paralysis everywhere I looked I didn’t see myself represented and I wanted to know what it was I would be capable of doing with my life,” Weggemann said. “I couldn’t look to the TV screen and see representation of disability around me. I couldn’t look at displays in stores. I couldn’t look to ads. I couldn’t look anywhere in my community and see that outside of sport at the Paralympic Games.”
When diversity and inclusion are discussed it is often about race and gender. People living with a disability are not broached as frequently. Weggemann is aiming to widen the discussion.
“I really do think that we all have the power to make a difference and change the world in our corners and I want to use my voice my platform my craft as an athlete and a storyteller with our production studio to do what we can to make sure that our next generation doesn’t have to ask the same questions but what about me and really pave the way. It’s not just about infrastructural access it’s about access to that metaphorical table and how do we create equality and true deep-rooted inclusion.”
Weggeman has now lived 13-years of her life as an individual with a spinal cord injury. If all goes as planned, she expects to live as a Mom and an athlete training for two more Olympic journeys in the coming years. The plan is to become pregnant after Tokyo.
“Honestly the hardest part of that entire journey was I thought March 2021 my husband and I would be trying to have a family not training for another six months for the games, ” Weggemann said. “As an athlete, you plan your life in four-year increments. We planned our wedding around it, we planned having a family around it. I joke with my husband we are probably going to be in this until 2028 because there is no way if I commit to Paris  I’m going to retire before the games finally come back to the U.S. I will hold on for dear life for L.A. 2028.”
Fighting for every inch until 2028 and beyond for herself and others sounds just about right for Mallory Weggemann.
Weggemann just released her first book: Limitless: The Power of Hope and Resilience to Overcome Circumstance.