Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann ready for Rio

LAKEVILLE, Minn. -- A swimming champion from Eagan leaves Minnesota Friday to compete in the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Mallory Weggemann is flying to Houston, Texas for team camp, then will head a week later to Rio de Janeiro.

"It's been hard the past few years. It hasn't necessarily been easy," Weggemann said.

In 2008, Weggemann was paralyzed from the waist down after receiving an epidural injection that was meant to help with back pain. That did not stop her from winning a gold medal at the Paralympic Games, four years later in London.

Now, she is headed to Rio. The Eagan native is one of 10 Minnesotans on Team USA.

"I kind of see these as like just a big swim meet. As long as she continues to think of it as a big swim meet, I think she'll be great," said Mallory's father, Chris Weggemann.

But Mallory thought she would have to retire in 2014. A severe fall injured her left arm, resulting in permanent nerve damage.

"It's kind of mind over matter. It's the Paralympic spirit that no adversity or obstacle is too much to overcome," said Mallory's fiancé, Jeremy Snyder.

Weggemann proved that when she got back in the pool two years ago with her sights set on Rio. She qualified to compete in seven individual events.

"To be here at this point now and heading to Rio and heading off to team camp in Houston and being on Team USA is, it's really special. It's much more emotional this round compared to 2012 because it's really taken a community to get me to this point," she said.

Thursday afternoon, Life Time Fitness in Lakeville held a send-off pep rally for the athlete. She has been training there for the past two years.

Amy Tong, 11, waited in line to meet Weggemann after the rally and said, "She really inspired me to keep on swimming and never give up no matter what happens in life."

The Opening Ceremony of the Rio Paralympics is September 7.

August 29, 2016
Kare 11 by: Heidi Wigdahl