Born on the 26th March 1989, Mallory Weggemann inherited her love for swimming at an early age from her two older sisters. Swimming competitively from the age of 7, Mallory became a paraplegic after an epidural injection to treat back pain at the age of 18. "After my paralysis in 2008, I never thought that I would swim again. Fortunately, I learned of the Paralympics around 2 months later through a newspaper article and I was determined to compete in the sport I loved when growing up. It's incredible how liberating the water can be. I truly believe the beauty of the water is that you're weightless - you are in control of your own body no matter the circumstances. It's just you and the water, weightless and free. In reality, it really saved me following my injury".
Back in the water a mere 3 months later, Mallory not only surprised herself - but everyone around her when she returned to the water to compete. "I love athletics in general, but I've always felt at home in the water. After my paralysis, the love, sense of certainty and peace I have when I'm in the water didn't change. If anything it grew stronger. The biggest challenge I faced was staying motivated on the days when you just want to give up. No matter how good, dedicated or driven you may be - we all have days when you want to call it a day. I believe it's those moments when you are tested the most that you see what you are truly made of. In those moments you have to remember why you started and what it is that you are training for".
Now a 13 time World Champion and a Paralympic Gold and Bronze Medallist, Mallory competed in her first international competition as a member of the United States IPC Short Course World Championship team in 2009, claiming her first International medals in the form of 5 golds. Also breaking 6 world records and 7 American records, Mallory would go on to compete at the 2010 IPC Swimming Long Course World Championships in the Netherlands, winning 8 gold medals and 1 silver. Breaking another 9 world records, Mallory was recognised as the best performing athlete at the event. Based on her achievements at the World Championships, Mallory was awarded the 2011 ESPN ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability.
Since learning about disabled sports in 2008, Mallory has become incredibly passionate about raising awareness of the movement and changing perceptions of disability. "I remember following my injury, I had a hard time understanding the fact that I would be looked at differently. My capabilities were put into question. Limits were placed on what I was capable of and what I'd be able to do in my life going forward. I had a hard time accepting that. I want to make a difference and change the world through the life that I live. My father always told us every night before bed 'you are the best and can make a difference. You can change the world'. Those words stuck with me my entire life. I believe we all have the ability to make a difference - change the world through our choices and actions. It's my mission to do the same through my personal and professional life".
Now also a motivational speaker, Mallory delivers messages that are not only inspirational, but also shares valuable lessons relating to adapting to change, overcoming fear and surviving tremendous odds. Currently living in Minnesota and training with her coach Steve Van Dyne, it is Mallory's dream to again represent Team USA - "When I returned to the water, I was able to fight back and prove to myself that the only limits you have are the ones that you create yourself. Swimming really saved me, it brought me back to life and taught me that anything is possible. I cannot even begin to put into words my love for the sport of swimming".