ALLENDALE, MICH. - She made worldwide headlines six years ago when, at the young age of 13, she decided to have her left leg amputated, but that loss six years ago has led Alyssia Crook to gain an amazing opportunity - a shot at making the United States' Resident Paralympic Swim Team.
Crook was recently invited by Team USA to compete in Sheffield, England at the "2017 World Para Swimming World Series."
"I balled," said Crook, 19, when she found out recently she had been selected to compete in England. "I have worked so hard, and it's one of my dreams to represent Team USA.
"This is my shot to shine, and I am so grateful to be getting this opportunity, and this dream is going to be coming alive very soon."
The Allendale, Michigan resident is highly regarded as one of the best up-and-coming paralympic swimmers in the world. She has her sights set on making Team USA for Tokyo in 2020 and, based on her most recent world rankings, she's closing in on achieving that goal.
After winning two gold medals at the "CanAm Open" earlier this month, Alyssia is now ranked among the top 13 paralympic swimmers in the world in five events (5th in the 100 Back; 1st in the 800 Free; 8th in the 400 free; 11th in the 100 Free; 13th in the 50 Free).
More amazing than her success in the pool, is Alyssia's back-story of how she got to this point.
She was adopted by Chad and Karen Crook, from a Ukrainian orphanage, when she was 5. Alyssia was born with a rare congenital disorder known as Popliteal Pterygium Syndrome, which is a condition caused by the build-up of scar tissue in her left leg. The tissue gradually strangled the arteries and nerves, causing the leg to lose all blood circulation.
It's suspected that Alyssia inherited the rare disease from her birth mother, who was exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Alyssia underwent several painful treatment to save her leg, but in the spring of 2011, the then 13-year old decided to have it amputated.
After several months of rehabilitation in 2011, Alyssia became interested in swimming, and the rest is history in the making.
"Ever since we got Alyssia, if there was something somebody told her she couldn't do, she'd find out a way to do it," said Karen Crook, Alyssia's mother.
Alyssia leaves for England on April 24th and will return on May 1st. It may be wise for her to keep her suitcase packed because she is under consideration to be selected for an even bigger opportunity.
"I may be moving to the Olympic Village in Colorado to live and train," said Alyssia. "I will find out if I've been selected to go soon after I return from England."
If invited, Alyssia will have the opportunity to train with some of the best swimmers and coaches in the world. Her goal of representing the United States in at the 2020 Tokyo games may come even quicker.
"She's certainly come a long way," said Karen. "When her leg was amputated, we weren't sure what the future held for Alyssia, but she's written her own script since and has cultivated major ability despite her disability."
"God is good," said Alyssia. "Without him guiding my life, who knows how things might have played out for me.
"Everything I accomplish, I owe to God, my family and all the people who have supported me through it all."
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