Sept. 15, 2016
WASHINGTON - Georgetown University swimming & diving alum Michelle Konkoly (C'15) has had quite the experience thus far at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Naples, Florida resident has won a pair of gold medals, set a world record and a Paralympic record in her first two events -- the S9 50- and 100-meter freestyle -- and still has two relay events left.
"The past two days have been more incredible than I ever could have imagined," Konkoly said via email. "My goal going into Rio was to swim my races the way that I trained, and I did just that and I couldn't be happier with the results."
Konkoly started her first Paralympic Games on Monday with a commanding three-second victory in her opening heat of the S9 100-meter freestyle. She touched the wall in 1:01.46, just two-hundredths of a second off of the Paralympic record. Her time was the best in qualifying, giving her the top lane for the finals.
In the evening finals, Konkoly swam even faster to earn gold with a world record time of 1:00.91. She bested Sarai Gascon of Spain, who took silver, by nearly two seconds. Her time broke the previous S9 world record of 1:01.08, set by South Africa's Natalie du Toit in 2008.
"After coming so close to the 1:00 mark in the 100 free at the U.S. Trials (1:01.25) I was definitely eyeing that for Rio. I was thrilled to go 1:00.91 and break the world record."
Konkoly was back in the water less than 24 hours later, competing in an event in which she already held the world record - the S9 50-meter freestyle. She had already set the world record -- twice -- at the U.S. Paralympic Trials in July.
In Rio, Konkoly cruised to a Paralympic record in her preliminary heat, touching the wall in 28.36 to best China's Lin Ping, who set the previous mark (29.12) in London in 2012, by less than a second.
In the final, Konkoly was again matched up with Ping, as well as the previous world record holder -- Ellie Cole from Australia. Konkoly responded by besting her own time from the morning heats, setting a new Paralympic record with a time of 28.29 and taking her second gold medal in as many days. She finished less than a second ahead of Cole, who settled for silver, while Ping fell to sixth.
"Hearing the National Anthem was by far my favorite part of the night. After hearing it once on Monday, I really wanted to have that moment again on Tuesday so that definitely fueled me for the 50."
Konkoly still has two more chances to earn medals in Rio as she will be part of the U.S. 34-point 4x100-meter freestyle relay team on Thursday. She will take to the water one last time on Friday in the 34-point 4x100-meter medley relay.
Konkoly entered Georgetown as a member of the Class of 2014 and a member of the swimming & diving team. In January of her freshman year, she fell out of her dorm room window while trying to open it, falling five stories and suffering many serious injuries, including damage to her spinal cord and fractured vertebrae which left Konkoly temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. After months of rehab and therapy, while she still had permanent nerve damage and weakness in her legs from the damage to her spine, Konkoly returned to the water with her Georgetown teammates and began training for Paralympic competitions. Paralympic athletes are classified in categories from S1, being the most disabled, to S10, being the least disabled.