Inspirational Athlete

Six state championships and Paralympic records in 12 events are no small feats for one Naperville teenage swimmer.

The 18-year-old continues to show that a major birth defect isn’t stopping her from reaching towards her dreams.

Ever since she was a toddler, Waubonsie valley high school swimmer Alyssa Gialamas has loved the pool.

Born with a disease called arthrogryposis, the joints and muscles in her hands and legs never developed properly, making life challenging at times but being in the water she says is liberating.

“I feel free and don’t have to wear my leg braces and I feel like I can accomplish anything, nothing’s holding me back,” she said.

Among her accolades are 12 American Paralympic records…four silver medals at the Guadalajara Para Pan-Am Games in 2011, a fifth place at the London Paralympics in 2012, and a six-time state championship for the Illinois High School Association.

“My success just helps with my future goals and I’m definitely pretty proud of everything I’ve accomplished,” said Gialamas. “I work really hard for it and I think a lot of people see that.”

Gialamas was recently named the 2014 March of Dimes Inspirational Athlete Award Winner, which honors a young person each year who has overcome a birth defect and excels in athletics while demonstrating good sportsmanship.

“I want inspire others to be better and to be the best they can be so to be able to get this award really means so much,” said Gialamas.

“Alyssa’s instrumental to the team because she’s really a model of overcoming obstacles, a model of going out there and taking what you have and turning it into a success and being willing to put in the work to achieve that access and being willing to be able for other people,” said Nick Arens, Assistant Coach for the Waubonsie Valley Girls Swim Team.

During the off-season, Gialamas continues to train with the Fox Valley Swim Team six days a week here at her school.

“For her teammates to see her go through her trials and tribulations and always have a positive viewpoint on what’s going on, I think that’s always inspirational for the athletes and the coaches,” said Dvaid Krotiak, Head Coach for the Fox Valley Swim Team.

Gialamas hopes the year-round training will pay off, as her next goal is to earn a medal in the Rio Paralympics in 2016. She will be honored at the March of Dimes Comcast Sportsnet Awards on February 10, along with other top professional athletes from the Chicago area.

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