Paralyzed Swimmer Victoria Arlen Ineligible for 2013 Paralympics Because She's Not 'Disabled Enough' | Bob's Blitz

Paralyzed Swimmer Victoria Arlen Ineligible for 2013 Paralympics Because She's Not 'Disabled Enough'

18-year-old paralyzed swimmer Victoria Arlen lost the ability to move her legs at age 11 after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that put her in a coma for two years. For three years beginning in 2007, Victoria was left in an uncommunicative, vegetative state in which medical professionals were unsure she would even live. Doctors discovered and treated her spinal condition in 2009 and Arlen 'came back to life,' however, she never regained her ability to walk.

What she did gain was a love of the water. Arlen entered a swimming pool in 2010 and just two short years later, the Exeter (NH) High School senior has set world marks in the women's 400-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle (besting British paralympic swimming phenom Eleanor Simmonds' top marks in both events.) Arlen won a gold medal and set a world record in the 2012 games.

Now the International Paralympic Committee has ruled the New Hampshire ineligible to participate in the upcoming world championship in Montreal...because her injury is possibly not permanent because of the slim chance she might walk again.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that IPC Director of Media and Communications, Craig Spence, said there’s “no question that Victoria has an impairment at the moment,” but the committee found no “conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment.”

Dr. Michael Levy of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore clarified a report that indicated she may recover. “It will take many months to years to get Ms. Arlen back on her feet. I did not mean to imply that Ms. Arlen would be able to walk quickly,” Levy wrote. “Please do not misconstrue my plan as a statement of permanence of her disability.”

“What kills me is their people have no experience with my daughter’s disease and have given an opinion. They’ve got every disability in this organization, but this is discrimination,” Arlen’s father, Larry, told ABC News of the decision. “It’s crazy.”

"Being penalized for maybe having a glimmer of hope of one day being able to walk again is beyond sad. There's a chance everyone with a lot of rehab and different technologies, [...] there's hope," she said. "I'm always looking for hope, and I was basically penalized for having hope. What message are we giving the world when we don’t encourage hope for disabled individuals?”

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