Paralympic swimmer Alyssa Gialamas has been named the Inspirational Athlete of 2014 by the Greater Chicago Division of the March of Dimes.
Gialamas, who swims for Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois, is a multi-event American record-holder and multi-time Illinois state champion. She was born with arthrogryposis, which stunts developments of the muscles, joints and limbs.
The 18-year-old represents a piece of a growing Paralympic swimming movement. She swam in the first-ever Illinois High School State Swimming Championship with new categories for athletes with disabilities, winning three events (in 2012) to join a rich tradition of Waubonsie Valley and Naperville state champs.
We just noted the growing impact of the Paralympics on the swimming industry with our latest Swammy Award, the Industry Impact Award which went to Mallory Weggemann, who signed a sponsorship deal with FINIS this year.
It’s clear that athletes with disabilities have gained more visibility and more impact in the swimming community in 2013, a welcome development for a community of hard-working athletes who are too often overlooked. Perhaps, too, this growing publicity could set up a larger influx of athletes with disabilities into the sport of swimming as young swimmers follow the footsteps of role models like Gialamas and Weggemann.
Gialamas will be honored on February 10th at the March of Dimes Comcast SportsNet Awards alongside members of various Chicago professional teams like the Bulls, Cubs, Bears and White Sox.