Opening Keynote Speaker
Monday 8:45 – 10:15 AM
Baby Steps: An Intimate Discussion on the Basic Forms of Leadership
Mallory breaks down the pillars of leadership into a more simplistic form, baby steps. As she insists that the only way to take a daunting task, a looming challenge, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and conquer it is through baby steps themselves. In October of 2008 Mallory found her own personal life was focused on change, through her journey and self-reflection Mallory discovered that one of the greatest quality leaders can present is the ability to adapt to change. Mallory’s story appeals to anyone seeking a genuine and, at times, raw examination of one young woman’s journey through grief to the top of the Paralympic medal platform, from being confined to a chair to learning to walk again with the assistance of leg braces. Even though her spine will never heal, her spirit is active, captivating, and unstoppable.
2012 Paralympian Mallory Weggemann’s life changed on January 21, 2008. Weggemann received an epidural injection to help treat back pain; however, complications with the procedure left the college freshman paralyzed from the belly button down.
Weggemann has been a competitive swimmer since the age of seven. After her injury at the age of 18, she chose to return to the pool. In April 2008, her older sister found an article in the local newspaper highlighting the Paralympic Swimming Trials for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. The meet was being held at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. Still coping with her new disability, Weggemann found one thing unchanged—her love for swimming.
While attending the meet as a spectator, she met several of the U.S. national team coaches. The following Monday, Weggemann returned to the pool and has been swimming ever since. She touts her Paralympic trials experience as life changing: “I have always loved the sport, but when this happened I thought my days of swimming were over and when I realized I could still do it, well I will never forget that moment.”
Weggemann broke her first set of world records in Edmonton, Alberta, in July 2009. At the 2009 Short Course IPC Swimming World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, she broke six more world records and took home five gold medals. In August 2010 at the Long Course IPC Swimming World Championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Weggemann proved herself again in the pool by taking home eight gold medals and one silver. She finished the meet with nine world records. In July 2011, Weggemann was recognized for her outstanding performance at the 2010 World Championships by ESPN when she was awarded the ESPN ESPY for Best Female Athlete with a Disability.
In August 2012, just days after being reclassified at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Weggemann showcased her amazing abilities by winning gold and setting a Paralympic record in the 50m freestyle. She also anchored the bronzemedal-winning 4x100m medley relay team, bringing USA back from fifth place to almost capturing gold. It has been deemed one of the most memorable moments of the London Games, and it inspired many across the world.
Just under four months after becoming paralyzed, Weggemann was back in the pool, with her eyes on gold at the 2012 Paralympic Games. Having achieved that goal, she decided it was time to chase her ultimate dream—to walk again. For years, this was something that was deemed impossible, but a new possibility arose and in order to achieve her goal, Weggemann reached out to the public to ask for their support through a crowd-funding Indiegogo campaign.
On November 16, 2013, Weggemann’s dream came true and she was able to “walk” again for the first time in nearly six years with her loved ones by her side. In order to accomplish this dream, she worked very closely with Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, to learn how to use her customized leg braces with the assistance of forearm crutches. Although Weggemann’s wheelchair will never be replaced by her customized leg braces and forearm crutches, they have allowed her to have short moments of upright mobility and the freedom of standing at her 5’9” stature again.
Currently, Weggemann continues to train in pursuit of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and is actively building upon her career outside of the pool through motivational speaking and other public appearances around the world. She will also be featured in The Current, a documentary produced by Make A Hero, a non-profit organization focused on inspiring individuals with disabilities to enjoy the freedom of adaptive sports.