Ahalya Lettenberger, Mallory Weggemann and Tiffany Thomas Kane pose during the women’s 200m individual medley - SM7 medal ceremony at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 27, 2021 in Tokyo.
For the first time at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, two American flags were raised during the medal ceremony as the Star Spangled Banner played.
Mallory Weggemann and Ahalya Lettenberger took gold and silver respectively in the women’s 200-meter Individual Medley SM7. Australia’s Tiffany Thomas Kane came in third for the bronze.
Weggemann, a three-time Paralympian, missed the podium in Rio and had not medaled since the Paralympic Games London 2012. She said she’s been manifesting that gold medal in her head for the last nine years.
“I think most of all I’m overwhelmed in all the best ways,” Weggemann said. “I’m filled with so much gratitude for my community that has been a part of this journey and so much pride in what this represents. It’s been almost nine years since I’ve been atop the Paralympic podium, and I have been fighting for it every second.”
She said winning gold alongside her teammate was a special moment for both of them.
“Seeing Ahalya take silver was remarkable,” Weggemann said. “When I looked over her eyes were already welling up. She has that pure joy of her first Paralympic games and her first Paralympic final. To see her come out a silver medalist is truly remarkable.”
It was a dream first Games for Lettenberger.
She began swimming in 2011 after experiencing pain in her hip while playing sports like football and softball. She was introduced to swimming as an alternative and grew up watching Weggemann compete for Team USA.
“Mallory has been a role model and an amazing teammate,” Lettenberger said. “I remember when I started swimming, and she was the gold medalist. I could never imagine swimming in a Paralympic final with her and medaling with her. Words can’t describe what it means to get this opportunity.”
“I still remember my first meet with Ahalya back in 2015 at the Parapan American Games,” Weggemann said. “Seeing how much she’s grown and everything she’s doing not just swimming but out of the pool as well has been really remarkable. I know that her future is very bright and I cannot wait to watch.”
Though gold was her goal, Weggemann said becoming Paralympic champion is about more than the times and medals for her. It’s about helping others feel seen and inspiring the next generation.
“For anybody, I hope this can be a small symbol of the fact that dreams are resilient as long as you’re willing to show up, fight and stay true to who you are along the way,” Weggemann said.
Both Weggemann and Lettenberger will look to add to their medal counts in the coming days. Lettenberger will swim the 400-meter freestyle S7 on Sunday. Weggemann has five more chances at a medal with plans to compete in the 50 and 100-meter freestyles, 50-meter butterfly, 100-meter backstroke and 100-meter breaststroke.