2Day's 2Cents: Eagan paralympic athlete up for ESPY

Photo Credit: Greg Smith Images

Mallory Weggemann might just be the world's most dominating Paralympic athlete.

The Eagan native holds 33 American records and 15 world records. She won eight gold medals and one silver medal at the 2010 World Championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands. She'll swim for glory in the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London.

Right now, however, the 22-year-old is locked in on winning one elusive award: an ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly).

Weggemann was nominated by ESPN for the Best Female Athlete with a Disability category for her dominance in the Netherlands, where she set nine world records. She was informed of her nomination when she was in Colorado Springs for a team camp, out for ice cream with friends.

"I was really excited when my dad gave me a call and told me," she said. "My goal for this year was to be nominated, but I didn't know how realistic that was. It really showed me that the hard work pays off. I've overcome a lot these past three years and to get to this point is really special."

In January 2008, Weggemann went into the hospital for a series of epidurals to alleviate severe back pain. Instead, she was paralyzed from the waist down and never walked out. While doctors remained optimistic that Weggemann would eventually regain feeling in her legs, the redemptive day never arrived.

So Weggemann took to the Paralympic swimming circuit and has dominated ever since, winning the past two USA Swimming Disabled Athlete of the Year awards. One of five nominees in her ESPY category, Weggemann is up against two-time gold medal skier Alana Nichols, 2010 Paratriathlon world champion Melissa Stockwell, world champion wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden and world champion Allison Jones, a one-legged cyclist.

"I think it validates the quality of the athlete that she is," father Chris Weggemann said of the nomination. "It says a lot about what she's been able to achieve in such a short period of time, and it hopefully will put her on the world stage."

Online fan voting for the awards is open until Friday. The ESPYs will air live at 8 p.m. July 13 on ESPN.

Weggemann went on local radio (1500 ESPN) during Monday's Twins game to help garner votes, but the majority of her campaigning has centered on e-mailing friends, colleagues and fellow swimmers.

According to her father, accepting the ESPY trophy on national TV would serve a higher purpose.

"To see that a lady in a wheelchair can win an ESPY, how cool would that be?" he said. "They show it on the program, they show it on the news. To see Mallory, or any of these athletes who are disabled, to show her on the program, that would do a whole lot to raise awareness."

So what will the moment be like if Weggemann wins?

"I think I'm going to tear up, I think I'm going to be a little girl about it and get all emotional," she said. "To be where I am is huge, but to win an ESPY? I think that would be bigger than winning the gold medal to me."

July 5, 2011
Alex Prewitt