Tokyo Paralympics: Alexa Halko overcame congenital cerebral palsy to become star athlete
After a stellar performance by US athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is time for the para-athletes from the country to shine. With the Tokyo Paralympics starting from August 24, 2021, over 234 athletes representing Team USA are training night and day to make their mark. Among them, track-and-field athlete Alexa Halko remains a top medal contender. The 21-year-old with cerebral palsy had earlier bagged two silver medals and one bronze at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Alexa Halko's journey from battling congenital cerebral palsy to becoming the country's star athlete was no cakewalk. This time she is eyeing more than one Paralympics medal, especially the gold, in sprint and middle distance events. Alongside Halko, other para-athletes like Breanna Clark, Gianfranco Iannotta, and Lex Gillette are also looking forward to creating history in their respective sporting events.
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Born on June 28, 2000, in Midwest City, Oklahoma, Alexa Halko was diagnosed with congenital celebral palsy at birth. Her condition comes under the ambit of Paralympics as a T34 and F34 category of impairment. Her training in parasports started at the early age of seven when she was discovered at a farmer's market in Oklahoma. A member of the Greater Oklahoma Disabled Sports Association approached her and invited her to train in para-athletics.
Though Halko did not use a wheelchair before, she took the assistance of a racing chair to participate in sports. Her first competition as a senior athlete was at the 2015 Grand Prix in Mesa, Arizona. That year, she was also selected to be a part of the US delegation at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships. Halko participated in three events and won silver in the 100-meter and 400-meter races. Her timing of 18.55 seconds set a new record in North America.
At the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Halko was the youngest member of the US track and field team. As a 16-year-old, she put up a brilliant performance as she had a prestigious haul of three medals. She won the bronze in the 100-meter race, followed by two consecutive silver medals in the 400-meter and 800-meter events.
Following her Paralympics success, Halko participated in the 2017 World Championships in London, where she repeated her Rio victory, bagging two silvers and one bronze once again. To date, Halko has come within the top three ranks in all major international competitions she participated in. This time, her fans her routing for her to add another feat to her crown by winning gold for the first time.
When not training on the track, Halko is a student of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. She aspires to combine her athletic and academic success together in future, and pursue a career in communications that incorporates para-sports.