Local swimmer with one arm chases Paralympic dreams

Posted at 10:54 PM, Dec 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-16 00:27:19-05

She's a paralympian in the making at Menomonee Falls High School, and this swimmer is showing us why we should never stop chasing our dreams.

Isabel Atkinson was born with one arm, but anyone who knows her would also tell you she was born to swim.

“We used to have a small pool in our backyard and she can't remember ever not swimming,” said Isabel’s dad Calvin Atkinson.  “She's always swam.”

The junior at Menomonee Falls High School has been swimming competitively for six years, but it was when she started high school she thought it was all over.

“I remember thinking in the water I could get out at any moment.  I could just quit,” Isabel recalled.  “I could just get out.  It would be so easy and I didn't and I'm actually really happy that I never did because now I'm in this sport and I'm really excited and I'm doing well and I love the team.”

Isabel has been on JV since freshman year, but has always amazed her family and friends.

“When I saw her for the first time I was like going to kind of see how this goes,” recalled Olivia Eisenhauer Isabel’s teammate and varsity captain.  “Maybe [you] won't be able to do high school swim, like maybe you'll just be able to do middle school swim but then I saw her and I was like, ‘Okay, well there's no way you're stopping her because she puts her mind to it she can definitely do it.’”

“I thought, 'Oh my gosh how is she going to compete with these other kids with two arms?’” wondered Isabel’s mom Julia Atkinson.  “But the first time I saw her up and down the lane, I had nothing to worry about.  She did great.”

“I guess it surprised me a little bit seeing her race the first time,” her dad added.  “The first race I saw her in was [one[ she won.”

“I never think about it,” Isabel explained.  “I know that I definitely swim differently like instead of bringing my arm to the side I bring it under me… It comes naturally.  I never thought about it because the way I do it is normal.”

But now Isabel wants to go above and beyond and swim among the best.

“I'm really looking forward and trying hard to become a paralympic athlete,” Isabel expressed.  “That is my overall, big goal and I'm hopeful that I can do it.”

Oh she can do it, just like she did her freshman year.

“Every year I go back to that freshman moment and was like I could just not do it and life would be so much easier,” Isabel said.  “But now since I'm doing it, I realize that it's actually a good thing that I didn't quit because I love it.”