Jessica Heims smiles on the medals stand at the 2019 ParaPan American Games.
Jessica Heims is just like any other collegiate athlete.
Her schedule is packed full of classes, studying and training. But on top of all the usual demands of college, athletics and a social life, Heims is also training for her second Paralympic Games.
Heims, born with amniotic band syndrome, had her left leg amputated below the knee at 12 months old. She grew up playing sports, just like any other child would and joined a local youth track club at age 10.
A few short years later, Heims and her family drove from their home state of Iowa to Oklahoma to check out the Endeavor Games, an adaptive track and field meet.
“It was there that I was introduced to the world of Para athletics and adaptive sports,” Heims said. “It made me so excited to use what I’d learned in my training so I could continue to grow.”
When she reached high school, Heims really doubled down and became more serious about pursuing a spot on the U.S. National Paralympic Track and Field team.
And at just the age of 16, she did just that.
Heims qualified for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio and finished in the top ten in both of her events - the discus and the 400-meter.
“When I first was introduced into the Para world, there were people who were sort of my idols, people I looked up to as the biggest stars I’ve ever met,” Heims said. “And then a few years down the road I was competing alongside them at the Paralympics.”
She admits that it was a lot to take in at a young age, but thankfully her support system at home helped her to remain humbled.
“My family at home made sure I wouldn’t get too caught up in the idea of myself being a Paralympic athlete,” she laughed. “They help me ground myself and balance myself when I’m off around the world as well as when I’m home and being a “normal person.”