Kayla Wheeler of Mountlake Terrace has never let her disabilities dissuade her from achieving big things.
Wheeler, a senior honor student at Mountlake Terrace High School and a finalist for The Herald’s 2013 Woman of the Year in Sports, was born without legs, with only a short stump for a right arm, and with a malformed left arm. Her mother got her started in swimming as a small girl so she would know how to handle herself if she ever fell in the water.
No one imagined she would one day become a world and American record holder.
Wheeler holds more than 30 U.S. Paralympic swimming records in various events (short course and long course, meters and yards, and different disability classes), and in 2013 she established four world records in the 100-meter breaststroke, the 50-meter butterfly and the 150-meter individual medley (she has records in two disability classes in the 50 butterfly).
“Breaking records is awesome, and so is winning medals,” Wheeler told The Herald in an interview last fall. “But it’s not necessarily all about that. It also feels good when I beat a time that I haven’t been close (to before).”
Wheeler hopes to represent the United States at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.