GLEN ELLYN, Ill. (CBS) — Going to the Olympics or Paralympics is always special, but, for a number of reasons, it means just a little more this time around.
That is especially true for a Glenbard West alum who’s dream will come true in Tokyo.READ MORE: 3 People Shot In North Austin
This is the moment for which Ahalya Lettenberger has waited a lifetime – qualifying for the Paralympics swim team. We first met the Glen Ellyn native two years ago as she was training for the World Championships at the B.R. Ryall YMCA.
“I have a condition called arthrogryposis amyoplasia,” Lettenberger explained. “It’s a muscular skeletal disorder that affects me from the hips down. It causes muscle weakness and joint restrictions, so when I swim, I swim only with my arms and not my legs which is totally different than what able-bodied swimmers do.”
“We’ve raised our children to focus on their strengths and what they can do, not what they can’t do, so in our eyes and the eyes of the community, I think everyone that knows our family, they don’t see the girl in the wheelchair,” said her mom, Anna. “They just see Ahalya.”READ MORE: Lollapalooza Now Requiring Masks In Tents And Indoors For All Attendees
Lettenberger will compete in the 400 freestyle and 200 I-M in Tokyo. After just missing out on qualifying for the Rio games five years ago and then watching the pandemic shut everything down last year, Ahalya wasn’t sure this day would ever come.
“So much of last year, I was like “I don’t even know if the games will end up happening. Will I have to wait four more years?” Not even knowing when I was going to be able to get back in a pool. It was definitely really tough to stay in shape. I did a lot of running in my wheelchair and biking. One of my friends let me use their little 10-yard pool, so I tied a little bungy cord and swam in place,” says Lettenberger.
The Rice University student is training in Houston before leaving for Japan in mid-August. Ahalya is confident in the health and safety measures in place for all Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Her family won’t be allowed to travel to watch her compete and the experience will be different than normal years, but her mission remains the same.
“I’m just really excited to hopefully to get the chance to medal and represent my country on the biggest stage,” she said.MORE NEWS: Sprinkler System Floods Skokie Apartment Building While Dousing A Fire
Lettenberger family plans to hold watch parties when she competes in August. And, if Ahalya wasn’t impressive enough, she’s also pursuing a bio-engineering degree at Rice. You can follow Ahayla’s Tokyo journey on Instagram here.