Paralympic swimming hopeful ready for Tokyo Games

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021
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This swimmer won't let her disability get in the way of her dreams to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics!

HOUSTON -- ABC Owned Television Stations and ABC's Localish present 50 inspiring stories from around the country for Fifty/50, as part of The Walt Disney Company's monumental initiative highlighting the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding, and gave women the equal opportunity to play. This story was originally published in June 2021.

One of the fastest para-swimmers in the world is one step closer to her dream of competing in the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Ahalya Lettenberger, a sophomore at Houston's Rice University, was born with a rare muscular skeletal condition that restricts her lower limbs and causes limited movement and chronic hip pain. She mostly uses a wheelchair to get around campus. But in the pool, she feels completely free and she's faster than almost everyone.

"As soon as I tried swimming for the first time, I immediately fell in love," said Ahalya. "The water just felt like another home and it gave me a freedom I hadn't really experienced before."

In 2019, Ahalya earned the silver medal in the 400M freestyle at the Para Swimming World Championships in London. In June she qualified for the Tokyo Games at the Paralympic Swimming Trials in Minneapolis. She's been preparing by swimming twice a day, six days a week.

"Just because I have a disability, it doesn't mean I'm any less able," said Ahalya. "It just means I'm differently able, and I might do things differently, but your disability doesn't have to hold you back. It can open up opportunities, if you let it."