Katy Sullivan is not your average athlete. Born without the lower halves of both her legs, she has used prosthetics most of her life.
Despite that, she was always involved in sports. However, she did face limitations in the realm of athletics.
"I was in gymnastics; I was on the swim team, and stuff like that," Sullivan said. "But I just couldn’t keep up with 'able-bodied' kids."
Sullivan started to focus on other things. But when she was in her mid-20s, her prosthetist suggested she try running as her next athletic endeavor.
At 25, Sullivan took up competitive running and went on to become a four-time Paralympic U.S. track champion in the 100 meter. She held the American record in that event for seven years.
Now, Sullivan is sharing her story in LAUSD elementary schools to inspire students. Recently, she helped prepare fifth graders at Kingsley Elementary School in Los Angeles for fitness testing. That event was part of a program called "Ready, Set, Gold!" which brings Olympians like Sullivan to LAUSD schools.
"A chick without legs can hold an American record in the 100m? There's no reason you can't jog another lap," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said her prosthetics remind the students that they can achieve incredible things.
"If you can cultivate these positive images and positive reinforcement for those kids that are not ‘natural athletes’, that’s how we’re going to overcome," she said.
She certainly inspired some students. Fifth grader Ashlyn said she realized she could play soccer even if she had no legs – if she "had legs like Katy."
"If she can run, anybody can run," Ashlyn said.
Sullivan said she’s not just teaching these kids, however. As someone who was not considered a ‘natural athlete,’ she said she’s one of them.
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