Mikaela Jenkins thrilled to be competing in Paralympic Summer Games

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) When Eyewitness News spoke with a freshman Mikaela Jenkins in 2018, she had one thing on her mind: the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. “It would be really cool, especially to travel all different places and swim there. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to Tokyo, Japan.”

Now, three years later, Jenkins has manifested that prophecy. In less than two months, the ambitious 18-year-old will be one of 34 athletes on their way to Japan for the Paralympic games. It’s a goal she’s had since she was 13, and she can hardly wait any longer. “I’m starting to get really excited for it,” Jenkins said. “I definitely keep thinking and visualizing my races, and it’s definitely getting me pumped up to swim. I’m ready to get started.”

The path to Tokyo was paved with hardships. Jenkins was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency. It’s a birth defect that caused her left femur to become significantly shorter than her right femur.  “I was amputated when I was eight months old, because I had a foot when I was born. But instead of getting a rotationplasty, or being wheelchair bound, my parents opted for the amputation.”

In a sport like swimming where the ability to kick is crucial, Jenkins had to work twice as hard as her peers. But she never let that roadblock stop her. “She is a person that doesn’t try to draw attention to herself. She wants to be a part of the group, and she is a part of the group. She is someone that does what everybody else is doing, works just as hard as everybody else, and in lots of cases, works a little bit harder.”

That hard work has finally paid off. Jenkins is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter butterfly, and will be competing in at least four events when the Paralympics begin in August. It’s an incredible feat for someone burdened with a physical handicap, but Jenkins continues to show that there’s no handicapping her spirit. “My parents raised me to not view my disability at all, in any sense, to the point where I’ve swam some pretty high-end able-bodied meets, and I’m like, ‘Why am I not keeping up with them?’ And my mom’s like, ‘You’re an amputee.’ And I’m like, ‘That doesn’t matter.’

(This story was originally published on June 30, 2021)

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