Wheelchair racer Jessica Galli competed in Sydney in 2000 and again in Athens in 2004. But her breakthrough came in Beijing 2008, where she won five medals, including a record-breaking gold medal in the 400m, three silvers (100m, 200m, 800m), and one bronze (4x100m relay). It was the highest total for any U.S. Paralympic Track & Field athlete.
Galli, who was injured in a car accident at age seven, credits hard work and her family for her success. “My family drove an hour every week to practice,” she’s said, and her dad, who was her coach in high school, was especially involved. Like any teenager, she admits, she didn’t always want to practice, but he kept pushing. Even today, she says, “He’ll call and ask how was my training and what speed did I hit?”
“People forget,” she says, “that your family travels with you all these years.”
Jessica graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S. in Kinesiology and a graduate degree in Health Policy and Administration. She has served as the Summer Paralympic Representative on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Advisory Council, and on the Executive Board of Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports USA.
“The hardest thing about Paralympic Sport is really the very start,” said Galli who won her first Paralympic medal nine years after her accident. “My advice is stick with it and discover what it is that you are good at, what you enjoy.”
The rewards can be amazing: “In Beijing we had full stadiums and packed crowds.” She’s excited to be racing next in England, birthplace of the Paralympic Games.