7 On Your Sideline: Swimmer working hard

February 20, 2012 5:04:39 AM PST
There's a young lady from Palos Hills who has spent a lot of time in the swimming pool. She's preparing for the 2012 Paralympics in London this summer, and not just one event. Leslie Cichocki wants to put forth a Michael Phelps-type of performance by competing in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle, 50- and 200-meter backstroke, the 100-meter butterfly, and the 4x100 freestyle relay.

For 12 hours a week Leslie Cichocki spends her time in a swimming pool. She has already swum some of the fastest times in the world in her classification, but, that's only half of her story.

"I have an intellectual disability that makes it difficult for me to process and understand what I read and hear," Cichocki said. "I also suffer from a seizure disorder. I have undergone rigorous testing and review by the International Paralympics committee to be able to compete.

"I feel it's really important to show how capable we are and to gain acceptance for the talents we have and the people we are."

"I'm extremely proud of Leslie," said Cheryl Cichocki, Leslie's mother. "She's overcome a lot in her life; educationally and health-wise. And now to be able to be recognized by the U.S. Paralympics and to make it out to the trials out in Bismarck, North Dakota in June. We hope that she can get selected for the team."

Although she holds the record for the fastest time in her classification Leslie is not a lock to make it to the 2012 Paralympics in London. But, she is working very hard to change that fact because it would be more than an honor.

"It would be the greatest accomplishment of my life and send a positive message out to athletes with disabilities to not let anything stand in their way," she said.

"Extremely proud of her," said coach Tom Rieman. "Her determination, being here all the time. She's one of my high attendants. A lot of my athletes I try to keep them above 75 percent, she's somewhere around 95 percent. And when she misses it's probably only because she's sick.

"It would be a dream come true for her. I know she's worked extremely hard. Morning practices, afternoon practices. Putting in all that time and all those extra practices it would mean the world to her."

"I'm extremely proud," said Leslie's sister, Kristen Cichocki.

"She really wants to be successful and she wants to send a strong message that anybody could do it no matter what."