There's no stopping Morgan Stickney's Race Against Time.
Stickney, who has undergone two amputations, has decided to forgo surgery in order to attempt a world record. After years of suffering, she is now closer than ever to achieving her goal.
Approximately four minutes, forty seconds, and a half. As a result, Morgan Stickney is being drawn closer and closer by the magnet.
In a pool in Cary, North Carolina, Stickney has been slicing off seconds in her relentless pursuit of those coveted numbers on a digital clock for over a year.
Stickney said, "That's the goal." This is what I'm going to do.
Lakeisha Patterson swam a time of 4:40.33 in the 400-meter freestyle in the S8 classification at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Current world record is held by Patterson. Stickney's unrelenting ambition is to get it passed.
At the moment, she is a little more than three seconds behind. Then again, she's getting closer and closer every day. For a swimmer who only recently became a double amputee, Stickney's best time has dropped by almost 30 seconds in the last year.
The coach of Morgan Stickney said, "Morgan is a very driven individual." After all of her hard work, she is capable of accomplishing her goals."
Stickney's return to competitive swimming was unthinkable less than two years ago. At the Paralympics in Tokyo, she could win a medal.
A turbulent, agonizing and hurried journey has brought her to this point. At several points it has strayed from its intended course. Stickney, on the other hand, kept going back into the water. It was always her "happiest place," she said.
The 14-year-old distance swimmer ranked in the country's top 20 at the time and set a goal to compete in the 2020 Olympics. Nevertheless, a broken bone in her foot and a medical condition that prevents adequate blood circulation to her limbs resulted in years of intense pain and a dependence on opioids to ease the agony. When she was 20 years old, she agreed to have her lower left leg amputated in 2018.
When Stickney returned home to Bedford, New Hampshire following her surgery, she stopped taking painkillers and re-calibrated her life. In the meantime, she re-entered the pool and changed her event to 400 meters. A few months later, she was selected for training at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic headquarters in Colorado Springs because of her outstanding performances.
After a second amputation below the knee in October 2019, her right leg was affected by the same disease. Then he learned how to sit up in bed, then get into and out of a wheelchair, then how to walk on two prosthetic limbs, and then went back to work once more. Later, she returned to the pool, this time without her lower legs but determined to compete. She had the unwavering support of her parents, Tony and Sheri, at every step of her journey.
They sold their New Hampshire home and moved to North Carolina so Morgan could train with Payne, a U.S. Swimming coach who also teaches swimming at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, NC. There are several Olympians Payne has worked with, but he's never worked with a paralympic swimmer. As a result, the Stickneys went with a coach who had no prior experience dealing with swimmers missing their feet.
In Morgan Stickney's case, "I didn't think it was that risky because I grew up able-bodied." As a result, I was accustomed to that type of coaching. "Relocating and dad's job posed the biggest risk."
Tony Stickney found work as a facility director for Dell computers as a result of his risk. As a result of working with Payne and refining her stroke, Stickney as an athlete has flourished in recent years. However, both Stickney and Payne agree that something else, something within herself, helped her cut 30 seconds off her time in under two years.
Stickney said, "I don't know how many people would put in as much work as I have." "Many people may believe it has to do with talent. "My success is a direct result of my own hard work."
At the World Para Swimming World Series in Lewisville, Texas, in April, Stickney swam the 400 meters in 4:43:70 to take over the world's No. 1 ranking (by about a half second) from para-swimming legend Jessica Long. It was Stickney's fastest time since Patterson broke the world record in Rio. Stickney's problem was that she still had to find 3.37 seconds somewhere in order to complete the task.
Payne said he had a feeling Stickney would not only catch Long, but also break the world record. Stickney's condition is degenerative and has not improved since her amputations, so the two must exercise extreme caution when it comes to her training regimen. Because of her flip turns, her legs get bruised and bloodied, and they break open when she kicks off the walls, and she can only practice two starts off the block a day.
As she put it, "my starts are terrible." Swimming against Jessica Long puts her a full body length ahead of me, she explains.
As Stickney's amputated leg bones shrink, some of the screws left behind from her amputations fall out. Her legs loosen up as the bones contract, releasing small screws. After the Paralympics, Stickney and her surgeon Matthew Carty agreed to wait until after she returns from Tokyo next month before removing her lower extremity prostheses. Carty is the director of lower extremity reconstruction at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
In the meantime, her training must be limited, and she spends the majority of her time in a wheelchair when she is not swimming. As a result of a blood flow restriction, Stickney's legs turned purple during a training session in early August, and she had to take an extra dose of her medication. Stickney has been able to train with able-bodied swimmers despite her limitations, and she is getting closer to her goal time of 4:40.33.
When able-bodied swimmers train with Stickney, "their jaws drop at some of the things she is able to do," Payne said. When she sees that they're hurting or in pain, she's right there beside and sometimes beating them. That's something we can all benefit from. The truth is that there is more to you than meets the eye.
Stickney will compete in the 400 meters, the 100 meters, and perhaps a relay at the Paralympics.
No one close to Morgan — her parents, Payne and even Carty, the doctor who had promised before the pandemic that he would travel to Japan if Morgan survived — can accompany her because of coronavirus restrictions at the Olympics. Many families are watching on television instead, knowing that they may get another chance to see her in person in three years, just like hundreds of other families.
'When this is over, I'll be training for Paris 2024,' Stickney said with pride. My goals will be even more ambitious than they are now.