It’s official: Alexa Halko is headed to Rio.
After three days of competing in the U.S. Paralympic Trials at Irwin Belk Complex at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., Halko received the news Sunday morning of her selection for the U.S. Paralympic Team competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
“It feels awesome!” she told WYDaily after learning the news. “I’ve been working so hard to get to this point and I can’t believe it finally happened.”
Halko, a 15-year-old sophomore at Jamestown High School, is not only the youngest woman competing for this year’s U.S. Paralympic team, but she’s also the only T34 athlete — a division reserved for Paralympic athletes with impaired body movement or control — competing on the women’s team.
Making the U.S. Paralympic Team has long been a goal for Halko, who has aspired to compete for the United States since she started playing wheelchair sports when she was seven years old and living in Oklahoma. Since that time, Halko has put countless hours into speed, endurance and strength training in the hopes of reaching her goal.
Halko’s progress was on display over the past three days during the U.S. Paralympic Trials, where she re-broke her world record in the T34 800-meter, took first place in the T51/T52/T34 100-meter dash and finished fourth in the T34/T51/T52/T54 400-meter dash.
With her family and coaches in attendance, Halko put on a handful of performances that all but guaranteed her a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Team.
“It was so crazy, but it was such a great learning experience,” Halko said of the U.S. Paralympic Trials. “It was just great being there to compete and go through it all. It was amazing.”
Still unsure of what events she will be competing in during the Rio Paralympics — she said she hopes to compete in the 100-meter dash, 400-meter dash and 800-meter — Halko plans to return to Williamsburg and resume her training with Lafayette Cross-Country coach Drew Mearns.
In the wake of the U.S. Paralympic Trials, Halko has developed a better idea of what she needs to improve upon before traveling to the Paralympics. Expecting to compete in more than just the 800-meter, Halko said she plans to focus more on speed work in order to become stronger in the 100-meter dash and 400-meter dash.
Before resuming her training for the Paralympics, Halko said she plans to celebrate with her friends and family. And in the meantime, Halko can rest easy knowing her dream of becoming a Paralympian has officially become a reality.