Area swimmer hopes to compete in 2016 Games

October 1, 2009 Only 14 years old, Mary Kate Callahan has been training for years to become a member of the USA Paralympics swim team, especially now knowing there is a great possibility it be held in her hometown.

Mary Kate Callahan is a member of Oak Park-Fenwick High School's freshman-sophomore swim team.

"I like the 50 back, the 50 free and 100 free the best," said Mary Kate.

Mary Kate started swimming at the age of 2 for therapy.

"I have Transverse myelitis. When I was five and half months old I had a virus that attacked my spinal cord and left me paralyzed from the waist down," Mary Kate said. "I don't use my legs at all; I pull with my arms, upper body."

Mary Kate swims six days a week, twice a day.

"I'm going to try to qualify, I'm going to work as hard as I can for 2012. My goal is really 2016," Mary Kate said.

Pam Redding, director of Paralympics and disability sports for World'Sport Chicago and former Paralympics coach, says it's not easy to qualify.

"It takes a lot of hard work and effort to qualify for the Paralympics team, just as much as it takes to qualify for the Olympics team. The people are athletes first," Redding said. "Mary Kate is a tremendous athlete. She is very excited to be training for the Paralympics games. She is a hopeful swimmer. We are watching her very closely here in Chicago and we are very supportive of her efforts here at Fenwick."

"I'm really determined," said Mary Kate. "I think it would really be a great opportunity to represent my country, and it would be amazing if it was in Chicago, my home town. I just love Chicago, everything about it, there's so much to do here, and I think it would make the experience better if I was in Chicago."

Mary Kate's mom agrees.

"Many people have been inspired by Mary Kate, and to see her go this far would be just a dream come true. I think that we would run when the cameras run at the Paralympics at the 2016," said Mary Kate's mom.

For more information go to www.usparalympics.org, >www.worldsportchicago.org, and www.fenwickfriars.com.

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