Paralympic swimming hopeful ready for Tokyo Games

HOUSTON, Texas -- 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."