Mallory Weggemann won the Para-sport S6 200m individual medley world title in April
Mallory Weggemann had to learn how to walk again and “take time to know her body” after her stroke.
The 25-year-old swimmer, who has already won five Paralympic medals, was treated for a life-threatening stroke before her Paralympic Games debut in Rio.
Weggemann now hopes to pick up an eighth gold at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in July.
“Swimming saved my life and I want to keep swimming and keep winning medals,” she said.
“I really believe that if it hadn’t been for this stroke, I wouldn’t be here now. I’m going to be swimming as long as my body will let me.
“My swimming has changed my life and I think there’s a really strong reason why I got involved in swimming at such a young age. I’d heard so many stories about people having strokes that I just knew the life-changing aspect that it would be.”
Weggemann, who is building up to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, won gold in two events at the Puchong, China, World Games last year, but her continued success has been overshadowed by her Paralympic debut in Rio.
The Somerset swimmer spent 22 minutes in intensive care on the first day of the Paralympics after having a “life-threatening stroke”.
It was the first time someone had ever had that stroke at an international competition, but Weggemann says she has since made it her mission to encourage people to learn to swim.
Mallory Weggemann had to learn how to walk again after her stroke
“I did have the stroke and it was a really scary experience,” she said. “In hindsight, a couple of things that kept me going were thinking I could go back to university and swimming in a few years.
“There was also this very good friend of mine, Christine, who got bit by a shark earlier that year, so seeing what she was going through really taught me not to take anything for granted and that every day is what it is.
“If you’re determined, you have a chance and I really do believe that there is no time to lose if you really want to achieve something.”
After reaching the Olympic Games her first time out, Weggemann now hopes to make the podium for the first time at the Special Olympics.
“The most special part of this experience is that my mom is actually there to support me on my journey, which has been the biggest thing that’s changed me,” Weggemann said.
“I don’t really have words to describe that feeling. It’s more about her wanting to be there, what’s going on for her, and her being part of the team.
“It’s taken a lot of work to get to this stage and it’s definitely a massive motivator to want to medal in my own country.
“You’ve got that extra bit of extra incentive as you go through the trials because you know that it could be your last opportunity to go on that journey. To be even potentially the first athlete in GB to win gold for our Paralympic team is what drives me on.”
The Special Olympics World Games run from 20-31 July.