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Arlington Paralympian Wins Gold, Silver Medals in Parapan American Games

Arlington resident Alyssa Gialamas brought back two medals and a new record from the Parapan American Games in Lima.

The two-time Paralympian athlete won a Gold medal for the 50 meter backstroke as well as a Silver medal for the 200 meter freestyle. Gialamas said she began the multi-event Games with her best race, the backstroke, and finished the with another strong race, the 200 meter freestyle.

Coming in at 47.65 seconds during the backstroke, she also set a new Parapan record.

“I haven’t swam that fast since 2015,” she told ARLnow, adding that “I ended up with a gold in the 50 meter backstroke, so I was really really happy.”

Gialamas was born with arthrogryposis, a condition which keeps some of the joints in her leg from moving easily and began swimming as physical therapy but said she found freedom in the water. When in the water, she says she relies on upper body strength instead of her legs.

By day, she works as a sales consultant with Cigna in McLean where she’s “really blessed” by her coworkers’ enthusiasm of following the race and her company’s support. Netting a medal and a record was also proof the 24-year-old athlete could juggle both worlds.

“To be able to come back and show that you can do both and I can swim just as fast as when I had a full time job as when I didn’t have a full time job made it worth it,” she said.

Gialamas’ balancing act is notable considering she was among the oldest on her team — a fact teammates teased her about.

“I was called Mom a lot of times on the trip and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,'” she said.

The Illinois-born swimmer said there wasn’t much time to explore Lima between the team’s dawn-till-dusk schedule, but she did bring back one souvenir: a nasty cold.

For now, Gialamas says she’s going to catch up on sleep, take a month to recoup from her training regime that’s split between Arlington and Baltimore, and consider what she wants to do next.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out, she said. “I’m just trying to focus on where the next steps take me, and I think that’s a good way to do it because I’m just happy with how I swam and how I respected Team USA.”

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