MARQUETTE — Kelly Allen, 22, is a freshman at Northern Michigan University and is training at the Olympic Training Site. But she is not like any other athlete–she’s training for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.
Kelly was born in Iron Mountain with a rare birth defect known as Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD), causing her pelvis, femur, and other bones to never develop in her left leg.
“I am missing my femur, my tibia, my patella, and then the hip on my left side isn’t fully developed,” she said. “So the doctors at the Mayo Clinic told my parents ‘We’re going to be realistic with you, she has potential, but we don’t know how much’, so they didn’t really know if I would be able to sit up or stand, let alone hopefully be standing atop a podium in 2016.”
Kelly is aiming to make it on Team USA for the 2016 Paralympic Games as a member of the sprint kayaking team. Spring kayaking is simply going from point a to point b as fast as you can.
“Right now, I’m basically a pioneer of the sport,” she said. “So I’m really excited to be working with Northern to kind of see how they can help pioneer and just kind of build and grow this sport into what it could be.”
“I’m really excited to be working with the coach here, Vance [Newgard, the head weightlifting coach]. He knows what he’s doing…I don’t, and so he has me on a weightlifting program right now and so that–along with my training and my boat–I’m really excited for my next season and to just kind of…everyone wants to be on the podium and I want to be on top.”
When Kelly was fourteen, she was introduced to the Extremity Games, like the X-Games but for people with prosthetics.
Even with a prosthetic leg, Kelly can still compete and train like any two-legged athlete.
“I’ve trained now 600 or more athletes, and she’ll be the first Paralymic athletic that I’ve worked with,” Newgard said.
“(Kelly’s training and birth defect) just kind of goes to show you that people shouldn’t have limitations. No matter what the issue is, they can succeed if they want something band enough, and you can tell and you can tell that she definitely wants it.”
“I think I’m a unique athlete, but then again I’m in a whole other subcommittee that all these athletes that train here,” Kelly said. “But to me, I look at that as motivation. All my life I’ve grown up playing able-bodied sports, because I did live in the U.P. and there wasn’t any adaptive programs.”
“When I was on my high school tennis team and varsity ski team, I was always working twice as hard to keep up with the other kids, which I think has really helped. That’s how I’m a unique athlete–that’s my definition, because I understand that determination and hard work can get results and just because I do have a deficiency I can still place up there with two-leggers.”
Kelly won’t find out if she makes Team USA until a few months before the 2016 games.
“I just say go out and meet people and try things,” Kelly said. “There’s nothing stopping you except yourself, really, is what I like to think. I always think it’s mind over body.”
To keep up with Kelly’s journey–and if you’d like to become a sponsor–you can visit her website, oneandonehalf.com.