Rio was everything I could have asked for and more. It is truly a journey unlike any other. I had a hard time comparing life in the Village to anything I’ve ever experienced before. More than anything, this experience showed me how Team USA becomes your family. Bonding with my teammates through thick and thin was certainly a highlight of the Games.
After my great swims at Trials, I knew that I had fast times in me. Those are the paces I’ve been training towards for the past two years, so I knew I was prepared to go close to world record times. My biggest concern was whether I’d be able to repeat those performances under the stressful conditions at the Games, especially since this was my first Paralympics. After my first race, though, I was right on my best time during prelims of the 100m freestyle. I knew I was going to be just fine!
The 4x100m free relay was definitely the most memorable race I competed in. All four girls in the relay split lifetime best times, and we actually swam under the World Record pace, though Australia beat us out for the gold. Plus, earlier in that session, my relay-mate Lizzi Smith had the swim of her life in the 100m fly, but got 4th by 0.01. We all wanted to get Lizzi up on the podium for the relay, so we really bonded together as a team and swam with heart!
I didn’t get to watch any other events in person, but I did hang in the Athlete Lounge in our building in the village often and watched other sports, often with other Team USA athletes. It was awesome to get the play-by-play of what was happening in track or wheelchair basketball from athletes who compete in those sports. I also got to meet some Olympians at the White House visit which was neat, since we don’t often cross paths.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see Rio at all, since swimming lasts the entire duration of the Games. I was in Rio in April, though, for a Test Event, and we got to spend an afternoon on the beach at Copacabana, which was certainly a highlight of the trip. My family got to do some great sightseeing, so I loved hearing about their Brazilian adventures!
I’m currently on a deferral from medical school – I’ll start at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia next August. Until then, I plan to spend the next year traveling for speaking engagements, events, and pleasure!
Road to Rio is a blog series written by Paralympic swimmer and former Magee patient Michelle Konkoly about her journey to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For more on Michelle’s story, click here.
Top photo: Facebook.com/michellekonkoly