Konkoly miraculously back in pool
Special to Montgomery
Methacton High School girls swim team has a tradition of producing standout swimmers. Michelle Konkoly is one of them. The freestyle ace, who swims for Georgetown University, was on state-caliber relay teams at Methacton with Blaire Kinsey, who now swims at Virginia Tech, and Kristen Rodman, who is one of Penn State’s top freestylers.
Konkoly’s career as a swimmer for the Hoyas was going well through her freshman season — and then came to a screeching halt on a cold, winter night in D.C.
In the early morning of Jan. 11, 2011, Konkoly was attempting to open a window in her door room because of ex- cessive heat in the room when the accident happened. She fell out the window and plummeted fivH VWRULHV WR WKH JURunG bHORw. Amazingly, she survived the fall. “, IHOO fivH VWRULHV DnG ODnGed on my feet,” said Konkoly. “I damaged my spine and had a lot of other injuries. I have rods and pins in me that will never come out. My discs were OK — just the vertebrae body got squished. When I woke up at the hospital, I was pretty freaked out. But, being a swimmer, I was able to put it in perspective.
“The pain now is nowhere near what it was. I went back to school last fall.”
Initially, doctors were skeptical that Konkoly would ever walk again. But, the spirited athlete showed that she is the swimming world’s version of Vinnie Pazienza.
When Pazienza was
the junior middleweight world champion, he suffered a broken neck in a car crash and the docWRUV WROG KLP KH’G nHvHU fiJKW again. After an amazing rehab, Paz made one of boxing’s most incredible comebacks when he returned to the ring for several PRUH WLWOH fiJKWV.
Konkoly not only returned to Georgetown for her studies last year, she returned to the pool and swam some exhibition races with the Hoyas’ team. This summer, she competed in the U.S. Paralympics Trials and just missed earning a berth on the national team.
“After red-shirting last year, I hope to swim for Georgetown this year,” said Konkoly, who was a 2010 runner-up for the Triangle Club’s annual Dannehower Award. “My left leg is getting better. It’s still not 100 percent but I’m hoping that it will continue to improve.
“I’m able to functionally navigate stairs. I did another round of rehab this summer at Magee (Rehabilitation Hospital). My limp is hardly noticeable now — at least I hope it is. I think I’m going past the timetable the doctors expected. I think I blew them away with my swimming.”
Always an intense competitor, Konkoly came very close to earning a spot on the Team USA squad that headed to London earlier this month for the Paralympics.
“After I got hurt, I thought about the Paralympics,” said Konkoly, who was one of the top academic students in her class at Methacton. “I wanted to finG VRPHWKLnJ Ln wKLFK , FRuOG be competitive and try to win.
“When I came back for spring break this year, my mom had talked to some Paralympics coaches. So, I went down to Baltimore and swam for them. They gave me some helpful things to work on. For example, they told me to use my legs less.”
After that, Konkoly decided to pursue the sport competitively again. She competed in the GTAC Disability Open in CLnFLnnDWL DnG TuDOLfiHG IRU the 2012 USA Paralympics Trials. With the Paralympics, swimming is divided into impairment groups — S11-13 for athletes with visual impairments, S1-10 for all other physical impairments (lower number represents most severe) and S14 is for athletes with a learning disability.
“I compete in the S9 category for freestyle events, my specialty,” said Konkoly. “, wDV FODVVLfiHG DV WKLV OHvHO due to weakness in my left leg from my spinal cord injury. Some other swimmers in this class have one leg amputated above the knee or one arm amputated below the elbow.”
At the USA Paralympics Trials at Bismarck State College in North Dakota, .RnNROy finLVKHG DV VLOvHU medalist in three S9 events. In the 400-meter freestyle, she arrived with a 5:22.96 seed time and swam a 5:08.53 in the preliminaries. She took VHFRnG Ln WKH finDOV DW 5:05.59 to rank second in the U.S. and 14th in the world.
Konkoly’s seed time in the 50 free was 32.30 and she clocked a 31.10 in both WKH SUHOLPV DnG WKH finDOV to rank second in the U.S. and 15th in the world. Her best drop came in the 100 free — 1:08.86 as seed time, 1:07.84 in the prelims and 1:06.14 Ln WKH finDOV (UDnNHG second in the US and 11th in the world).
“The best race for me in North Dakota was the 100 PHWHU finDOV,” VDLG .RnNROy, who is majoring in biology as part of a pre-med program at Georgetown. “The time I swam was totally unexpected.
“My starts are good. They’ve been improving a lot. But, it took me almost 10 months to start using my kick. I had to relearn how to swim because I have a different body now. I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”
Konkoly’s body may have changed but her indefatigable spirit has remained the same. 6KH’V D fiJKWHU DnG D VuUvLvRU. And, as always, she is a winner — a dedicated athlete who refuses to give up.
Methacton graduate Michelle Konkoly.