Phoenix, Arizona native Allysa Seely won the first triathlon gold medal in Paralympic history in 2016, leading the sport’s debut in Rio. She’s also a six-time world medalist, including three golds, and a 17-time ITA World Paratriathlon Event medalist, and is now gearing up for her second Paralympic Games.
Get to know Seely, 32, ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics.
Seely was diagnosed with Chiari II Malformation, basilar invagination, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which effects her brain, spine and connective tissues in 2010. She had her first brain surgery in August of that year, and then in 2013, had her left leg amputated below the knee due to increased spasticity in her foot. She competed seven weeks after this surgery at the U.S. Triathlon Collegiate National Championships with Arizona State. The amputation moved her into a different competition category, but she still won five gold medals in the ITU elite circuit in 2014.
Seely currently competes in the PTS2 classification, which is one of the classifications for athletes who use a prosthesis. Athletes compete in cycling and upright running, as opposed to handcycling and using a push rim wheelchair.
Seely became involved in triathlon as part of a New Year's tradition to try something she had never done before. She learned about the sport while in college and signed up for a race a few weeks later in 2008. She became a member of the Arizona State University collegiate club triathlon team and was a nationally ranked triathlete prior to her diagnosis.
Seely made her debut as an elite paratriathlete in 2012 and earned bronze at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships that same year.
Meet Seely's Family
Seely is the daughter of Jamie and Deborah Seely. Her mother is a retired school teacher who taught second grade for 30 years. Her father works with saving bees and informing others about the value of bees. He also harvests honey and sells it at farmers markets. She has two brothers, Ryan and Nathan, and one sister, Jessica.
Seely lived with her sister up until the Rio Olympics and then moved to Colorado Springs and has been there since. She now lives with her two dogs -- Bentley, a chocolate labrador, and Mowgli, a golden retriever who acts as her service dog and training partner. Mowgli will run beside her, watch her on the treadmill or bike, and even swim in the lake with her when she is training. Mowgli can sense how Seely is feeling and even knows when she is about to have a seizure or lose consciousness.
Seely spends around 11 hours per day at the training center each day training, recovering, meeting with coaches, a sports physiologist, a dietitian, and tracking her workouts. She starts the day by walking her dogs and watching the sunrise, then heads to the pool for her morning workout from 7-9. Her afternoon workout consists of a run, a bike, or both. Seely’s third training session of the day is a strength workout followed by recovery.
Who is Seely's greatest influence?
"I met [Olympic gold medalist] Misty Hyman in December of 2013 at a triathlon camp that was being put on in Arizona," Seely told NBC Olympics in a pre-Games questionnaire. "A friend entered me for a free spot for the camp as a way to get me back into the sport after my amputation. After that camp I kept working with her for swim training. She has been integral to my journey as an athlete. Leading into Rio, she indispensable for my swimming, helping me to go from a back of the pack swimmer to a front pack swimmer. It was amazing to have a mentor who has been through the ups and downs of the Olympic/Paralympic path. A mentor who had accomplished exactly what I wanted, a gold medal at the Games. Leading into Tokyo she has remained an integral part of my performance team, a mentor and a friend."
Seely’s fondest memory is from the Rio Olympics, when her brother Nathan came running down the barricade next to the finish, squeezing his way through the crowd screaming "That's my sister. She's going to win. That gold medal is yours."