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Roundup: McKenzie Coan’s Road Recovery, And More

by Karen Price

McKenzie Coan reacts to winning a race at the 2022 Para Swim World Championships. (Photo by Getty Images)

Every other week we scour the web for the latest going on in the world of U.S. Para swimming. Here’s what you missed!

Coan’s Road To Recovery

It has been a difficult summer for McKenzie Coan, but the three-time Paralympian is sharing progress in recovering from Bell’s palsy.

The condition stemmed from a bad respiratory and ear infection earlier this summer, and presented itself when Coan woke up one morning with paralysis on one side of her face. Although doctors told her it was temporary, the paralysis made her unable to fully open her mouth or close one of her eyes, which affected her swimming because she couldn’t blink or exhale properly. That resulted in her needing to withdraw from the world championships.

But in a video posted to Instagram, Coan wrote:

“It’s been a long road, but I’m stronger because of it. ❤️‍🩹

“Sharing this for anyone who needs a little reminder - whatever you’re going through, hold on. You will get through it.”

World Championships Reactions, Continued

Team USA came away with 25 medals at this summer’s world championships in Manchester, England, and athletes have continued to share their reactions to the last major international competition before next summer’s Paralympic Games in Paris.

Julia Gaffney, the 2020 Paralympian who won two silvers and one bronze medal in Manchester, detailed some of her struggles this summer:

“Not exactly the results I wanted, but given the circumstances I’ll take it. This has been the hardest year of training physically and mentally. I have been dealing with a lingering shoulder injury and have been trying to get healthy again. I wanna thank the medical staff for helping me get through this meet as painless as possible. Always a privilege to swim for team USA. Now time for a break and onward to Paris and striving to get better.” 

Paralympic hopeful Morgan Ray also said he was “honored to represent Team USA on the world stage,” but had to battle through illness throughout the meet.

“I came into these World Championships ready to #showtheworld and I still feel I did that. Not everything is in my control (classification, illness, officiating, etc.). I can only do what I can to be ready for my moment. I became sick upon racing and only got worse through the rest of competition. 8th in the 200 IM. The body aches, congestion, and coughing, made it insanely difficult to stay focused and be ready.

“But I did…”

Read more of Ray’s post below:

Two-time Paralympian Ellie Marks took bronze in the 200 IM and 50 butterfly, along with fourth in the 50 freestyle and 5th in the 100 backstroke. She wrote:

“🥉🥉Thank you Manchester and team USA. Grateful for the fun fast swims. Congratulations to everyone on their performance. This past week was brutal ♥️🤍💙 Huge thank you for all the love and support!”

Jamal Hill, who’ll look to make his second Paralympic team next summer, wrote that he’d spent the time since Manchester reflecting on a challenging journey at the world championships. 

“While my personal performance might not have been what I hoped for, I’m beyond proud of many of my teammates who were able to get the job done!

“This experience reminded me that a team’s success is a result of the synergy we create, where the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts. 💯❤️ As we turn our eyes towards Paris 2024, I'm inspired by the lessons learned and the camaraderie we've built. Together, we'll continue to strive for excellence, celebrate each other's victories, and work towards a brighter future.”

Paralympic hopeful Christie Raleigh Crossley shouted out Hill in a post on her Instagram account, relaying a story about how her dear friend has tried to give her the nickname “Champ” ever since they met in Cincinnati last year. 

Raleigh Crossley wrote:

“Every time he would say it, I would come at him quick with the ‘Nah! Nah bro! I haven't earned that.’” Raleigh Crossley wrote. “I knew I had so much to prove, not only to the world, but to myself. I was not at all ready to be called something I felt I didn't deserve yet.”

Those feelings are starting to change after Raleigh Crossley won the women’s 100-meter backstroke S9 title in Manchester.

“While I don’t know if I will ever feel comfortable with Jamal calling me ‘Champ,’ I do feel like I have proven to myself that I am a Champion,” the swimmer wrote.

Check out the full post here.

Pagonis Working Her Way Back

Also missing from the world championships was Anastasia Pagonis, who won gold and bronze in her Paralympic debut in Tokyo. She recently posted about her first day back in the gym eight weeks after shoulder surgery, with video of her doing flutter kicks onto an exercise band, pulling a sled and doing squats. 

She posted, “Follow me for my journey from post op shoulder surgery to hopefully, Paris 2024 Paralympics!” 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.