Naperville Paralympic swimmer Alyssa Gialamas honored

February 9, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Only 18 years old, Alyssa Gialamas has won a number of local, state and national swim events. She has a long-term goal of winning even more.

Every day, she trains for four hours at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora.

"My day starts at 7:30. I wake up to go to school, and then I usually get home around 7:30 after practice," she said.

Alyssa is now a senior. She has been swimming since she was 2 years old.

"As a form of physical therapy," she said. "I have something called arthrogryposis, and it affects my arms and legs, and it affects the muscles and joints in your body. So, in some positions, my joints are locked," Alyssa said.

Despite her physical challenges, Alyssa is an excellent swimmer.

"I swam on my high school team all four years, won three state titles, which was really fun. And then this year, I went again and won another three titles," she said.

She also is a member of the USA national team and qualified for the 2012 London Paralympics Games.

"I swam the 50 free, 100 free and 200 free," said Alyssa. "My best was, I placed 5th in my 200 free."

Her high school swim coach, Nick Arens, says Alyssa is always up for challenges.

"She's always been really strong in the freestyles and the backstrokes, and she starting to develop more of her breaststroke and her butterfly with her level of disability. She's looking to learn how to develop better, but it's a struggle," said Nick.

This fall, Alyssa will be going to Loyola University Maryland, majoring in communications.

"I don't know where it's going to take me, but it's definitely a really broad subject. So, I think I'll narrow down as I go through a couple years at school," she said.

In the meantime, Alyssa is training for her next Paralympics Games in 2016 in Rio.

"I get to travel around the world and swim at different competitions for the next two years," she said.

Alyssa also mentors other students who have a physical disabilities. She is an ambassador in promoting sports and being active.

For more information, including on the March of Dimes Inspirational Athlete Awards go to:

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