Wednesday, June 18, 2008
OU alumna to represent U.S. at Paralympic Games
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
Cheryl Angelelli, CAS ’93, will participate in her third, and possibly final, Paralympic Games in Beijing this summer. At the beginning of each Paralympics, she sets a goal for herself. In Sydney, she wanted to make the finals. In Greece, she wanted to get a medal. In Beijing, Angelelli’s goal is gold.
A competitive swimmer since she was 8, Angelelli suffered a spine injury that left her a quadriplegic while diving into a pool at the age of 14. She didn’t give up on her dreams of being a swimming champion. After the 2004 Paralympics, Angelelli decided to retire from swimming, but in 2006, she couldn’t deny her competitive streak anymore.
“I didn’t swim for about two years. In 2006, I started to really miss swimming and I was putting on weight. I got back in the water for some exercise. In May 2006, I had my husband time me and I surprisingly was swimming near the number one time in the world,” Angelelli said. “I started training again and in August 2005, I made the U.S. national team, went to South Africa for the world championships and won two gold medals.”
Angelelli, coached by her husband Shawn Kornoelje, who is also an assistant coach for OU’s swimming and diving team, trains at the OU Aquatics Center. Her training has changed for these Paralympic Games because her events have changed.
“The 200-meter freestyle event was dropped for my class. I have always been a middle distance swimming and swam the 200-meter freestyle. I have to swim the 50-meter and 100-meter now, which are sprint races,” Angelelli said. “Thankfully I have a great coach who can help me adjust. We’re not doing as much distance work and we are instead working on shorter sets and trying to do speed work.”
Angelelli uses primarily her upper body to swim. She spends six days a week training, but only three to four days in the pool. She also does weight training, cardio workouts and exercises to build her core.
Angelelli will leave for Japan on Aug. 19 and she will train there until heading to Beijing, China on Sept. 4. The opening ceremonies will be held Sept. 6 and Angelelli’s first event will be Sept. 7. She will participate in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and 200-meter freestyle, which is still open in other classes.
“For the 200-meter freestyle, I will be swimming against others who are less impaired. I’m doing it because my first event is on day one and my second event is on day nine and I want to stay focused and keep my body in race shape. Having the extra event in there will help,” Angelelli said.
The 2008 Paralympic Games could be Angelelli’s last.
“My body is telling me more and more that it is time to retire. I’m the oldest woman on the U.S. swim team and quite possibly the oldest woman in any sport going to Beijing. Going out on top would be something great,” Angelelli said.
While she has no interest in coaching once she retires, Angelelli said she won’t be out of the water for long.
“My husband gets so mad at me because he wants to sit on a raft in our pool and float. I can’t do that. Even in the backyard pool, I’m swimming laps. I’m going to have to learn not to do that,” Angelelli said. “Swimming will always be part of my lifestyle. It’s great exercise and I haven’t had many of the complications someone in a wheelchair from a spinal cord injury can have and I think it is because of my active lifestyle.”