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news News Wednesday, September 11, 2019 Wednesday, September 11, 2019 3:08 PM - Wednesday, September 11, 2019 3:08 PM

Former patient and para-athlete sets her sights on upcoming Paralympics

Former patient and para-athlete sets her sights on upcoming Paralympics

Kaitlyn just competed in the Parapan American Games with the rest of the US women’s wheelchair basketball team, and is heading to the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo – but getting there was no easy feat for her. It took Kaitlyn four years of trying out for the U.S. women’s team before she made the official squad in 2017.

“The feeling to be able to do that was incredible,” Kaitlyn said. “It’s an experience that not a lot of people get to have and I was really excited.”

After being selected for a development team in 2013, where she spent the year training and developing her athletic skills on the national level, she set her sights high and made it her goal to make a Paralympic team. She tried out for the team every year after that, until she was selected in 2017.

Kaitlyn was born with sacral agenesis. She received multiple surgeries and rehabilitation therapy at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston as a child. She began playing basketball as a high school sophomore, and returned to the Houston Shriners Hospital for additional orthopaedic surgeries so she would fit better in her basketball chair. She had surgery on her right ankle and had her quads stretched, allowing her to bend them at 90 degrees.

“I first started playing with the TIRR Memorial Junior Hot Wheels Team in Houston,” Kaitlyn said. “They got me in a chair, and once I started practicing, I didn’t want to stop.”

When Kaitlyn began playing in high school, she said she had no idea that she could continue playing at the collegiate level. She ended up receiving a basketball scholarship from the University of Illinois, where she completed her undergraduate degree in community health and is currently working on her master’s degree in social work. She has since competed in a number of championships and is well on her way to reaching her goal of playing in the Paralympics with the rest of the U.S. team.

“It’s about taking it one day at a time – it’s about doing something because you like it and not because you feel pressured to do it. When you do find that one thing that you are passionate about, the best advice I can give to anybody is to go out and put all your effort into it,” Kaitlyn said. “It takes a lot of hard work, but if there is something that you really want to do, go out there and go for it.”

Kaitlyn charging the ballKaitlyn as a child