Mallory Weggemann is a Paralympic swimmer from the USA and a 2017 Wings for Life World Run Ambassador. She became paraplegic after an epidural injection to treat back pain in 2008. Just three months after her injury at the age of 18, Weggemann chose to return to the pool for the Paralympic Swimming Trials at the University of Minnesota. Still coping with her new disability, Weggemann found one thing unchanged: her love for swimming. Less than sixteen months later, Mallory broke her first set of world records at the 2009 Can Am Speedo Para Swim Meet. Now, she holds 34 American Records, 15 World Records and two Paralympic Medals – one gold, the other bronze.
From breaking records and taking gold to inspiration and motivation, Mallory set aside time to tell her story and share what she's most excited for at the Wings for Life World Run!
Q: What does it mean to you to be a Wings for Life World Run Ambassador?
A: Having the opportunity to be a Wings for Life World Run Ambassador means so much to me on such a personal level while Wings for Life strives to raise awareness and find a cure for spinal cord injury. Having lived with a spinal cord injury for nine years now I have seen the power of sport in my own life as a Paralympic athlete and I love that the Wings for Life World Run is combining the two worlds as they raise awareness and funds for spinal cord injury research.
Q: What are you most excited for/favorite thing about the Wings for Life World Run?
A: I think I am most excited about the idea that the world is literally racing as one, as individuals from all over the world come together to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.
Q: How did it feel when you broke your first world record?
A: I broke my first World Record in August of 2009 just a year and a half after my paralysis. I think for me that record symbolized the idea that I was physically capable. Following my injury, I felt like society looked at individuals with physical impairments as being physically incapable and when I broke those first three world records that weekend I felt empowered. For my it symbolized so much more than a record, it was about that transformation in my own life from hoping to truly believing in possibilities again.
Q: What is it like to win a gold medal?
A: I have had the honor of sitting atop the podium on 25 different occasions, from World Championships (where I have won a total of 13 gold medals), to Pan Pacific Championships (where I won 9 gold medals), to Para Pan Am Games (where I won 2 gold medals) to the Paralympic Games (where I won 1 gold medal). Each time the emotions have been overwhelming, although for me the pinnacle was obviously at the London 2012 Games where I became a Paralympic Gold medalist. That moment as I sat atop the podium and heard our national anthem play and saw our flag raise was a moment unlike anything I have ever experienced. For me the most incredible part of that moment was knowing that fulfilling that ultimate dream of becoming a Paralympic Gold medalist was about so much more than myself, as I sat there I thought about the honor of representing our country, Team USA, I thought about the community of people that got me to that point. Although I sat a top that podium alone, there was an entire community of loved ones, coaches, sponsors, teammates and fans that got me there and that feeling of community brought such an overwhelming sense of pride and joy.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: For me my motivation steams from my community, from the love and support I receive from my husband, my parents and my sisters, from the constant encouragement and commitment from my coach and trainers, to the support from my teammates, training partners, sponsors and fans. My athletic journey is fueled by my love for the sport and the community around me.
Q: Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life?
A: My biggest influence in my life stems from the very people I am around on a daily basis. My parents have been my number one cheerleaders since day one, they have always believed in me, encouraged me and supported my every dream. This year I had the honor of marry my best friend and the past four years he has been by myside every day, pushing me one step further, supporting me and loving me. My coach who even coming off an incredibly severe injury never gave up, gave everything he had to this dream of mine and helped me keep my love for the sport burning stronger than ever. I am so incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life and for me, that is my biggest influence, they keep me grounded, they keep me humble and the remind me why I am doing what I do.
Q: When you’re not crushing world records or winning gold medals what do you like to do?
A: I absolutely love just spending time with family and friends. Training for a Paralympic Games, the travel that I do as a speaker, I absolutely love it all but I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a high level of sacrifice that has come with all of this. When I have down time I absolutely love enjoying the simple joys of spending time with my family and friends, going for a walk with my husband and dog, sitting on the deck and grilling out, knowing that I have that to come home to keeps me grounded and fuels my love for my career both in the water and out.
We're stoked to have Mallory participating in Sunrise, Florida, on May 7!
Brooke Thabit, Wings for Life World Run ambassador
The Woody Foundation
Mike Shaw, Canadian ski coach