This Paralympian Is A Performer Both On And Off The Track
Katy Sullivan is an indomitable athlete who believes that “can’t is a four-letter word.” She is an actress, producer, writer, and Paralympic track and field athlete, not to mention, a U.S. record holder.
Katy’s mother sensed something was atypical about her just-born daughter, but when she learned Katy was missing both of her lower legs, her incredulous response was merely “That’s it??” That unabashed spirit clearly transferred to her daughter. As a child, Katy pursued swimming, gymnastics, singing, and acting. She turned the latter from a hobby into a very successful profession, with stints in theater and television productions including My Name Is Earl, NCIS: New Orleans and Last Man Standing.
Once her acting career was established, Katy expanded her horizons to become a major player in the Paralympic movement. She competed in two Para Pan American Games, a Paralympic World Championship and five Paralympic National Championships, breaking records in the 200 meter in 2007 and the American record for the 100 meter in 2012. She is a four time U.S. Champion in the 100. In 2012, she represented the U.S. at the Paralympic Games in London, setting a new American record of 17.33 seconds, finishing sixth in the world among the T-42 class, unilateral above-knee women. After retiring from competition, Katy was even a Sports Analyst for NBC at the Paralympic Games in Brazil. Remarkable achievements, especially considering Sullivan didn’t learn the physical act of running until the age of 25.
“I had never run before in my life. I’m handed these carbon fiber running feet to try and just putting one foot in front of the other quickly was something that my body didn’t understand how to do. I can understand what running is, but my muscles didn’t understand. It was like learning to ride a bike.”
It wasn’t easy in the beginning but Katy’s positive outlook prevailed.
“My hands were in fists, my shoulders were tense, everything was tight. What a great, incredible metaphor for life. If you are trying to muscle through something, at some point if you just kind of let all that tension go and release everything, it just happens naturally.”
Katy fervently believes that being open to this new experience allowed her to grow and enrich her life in innumerable ways.
“The worst thing that can happen is that I gain a skill, have a hobby, become good at something, and get in great shape. This was worth the risk of failure to see where this path leads.”
And fail she did, at first, but she didn’t get discouraged nor listen to the naysayers. She disregarded other people’s “no’s” as simply their opinion. Katy treated her progression almost like an acting job, applying a disciplined training regimen, effectively acting like an athlete. She believes those routines ultimately morphed her into a new state of being.
Katy describes sport as a beautiful chapter in her life that took her all over the world. She wants everyone to know that even if, at first, they don’t think of themselves as an athlete (or an astronaut, or a CEO, or whatever) that they should just release everything and remain open to where every opportunity might lead.
“Life can lead you to some pretty extraordinary places.”
The world is fortunate to have amazing people like Katy to inspire young challenged athletes and others facing obstacles.