My Life and Sports Journey – Never Give Up

Never give up. That’s the message Mary Kate Callahan continues to preach. The inspiring 19-year-old T8-T10 paraplegic is on a quest, and has made training for and competing in Triathlon and Ironman events her life’s passion. Here is the story of this hero.

Transverse Myelitis didn’t stop me!

My life and sports journey began when I was just 5 ½ months old. During the night, a virus called Transverse Myelitis attacked my spinal cord and left me a T8-T10 paraplegic. I began swimming as part of aqua therapy, joined my local swim club as a result, and never looked back.

Breaking Barriers

As a high school swimmer, I was the captain of Fenwick High School’s 2012 State Championship Runner-Up team. As part of my efforts to swim at the state high school championships, I teamed up with the Illinois Attorney General and Equip for Equality. Together, we compelled the Illinois High School Association to create opportunities for disabled athletes to compete in state-level competitions. As a result of this effort, I, and six other girls, were the first athletes with a disability in Illinois history to compete at the state championship swim meet.

First World Championship

In 2012, I became the youngest member of the USA World Paratriathlon Team and competed in my first World Championships in New Zealand. I have also been a member of the USA World Championship Teams in 2014, 2015, and 2016. In October of 2015, I set the course record at Ironman Louisville (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run).

I now serve as a mentor and motivational speaker, discussing adversity and encouraging children and young adults to engage in an active lifestyle. I also serve as a Sports Envoy and most recently traveled to Uzbekistan to work with their Paralympic Association, coaches and athletes to help continue to develop their paralympic programming.

Take Away

Never give up. The world is unfair, but how we make the best of our situations is what truly speaks to our character and strength. It is important to always live life to the fullest, and enjoy every single moment. Life is too short, so make sure to always have a smile on your face and put your best foot forward. 

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