#12 Regardless the difficulty, believe that your ‘actual state’ is going to help you overcome problems. Training will help you to achieve your ‘actual state’ in stressful situations (emotional) 

By Emilio Sánchez Vicario, CEO & Founder at Sánchez-Casal Academy.

Michelle Konkoly is all energy and determination. Last summer, the 24-year-old athlete saw her dreams fulfilled when she won 4 medals at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio and broke two Paralympic records in the S9 100m freestyle and the S9 50m freestyle.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 13: Gold medalist Michelle Konkoly of the USA celebrates on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Womens 50m Freestyle S9 Final during day 6 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on September 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)


Originally from Pennsylvania, at Georgetown Konkoly joined the university’s swimming team. Her life was changed dramatically, however, when in her freshman year she fell five stories out of her dorm window and was seriously injured. She fractured several ribs and a vertebra, damaged her spinal cord, and as a result, was left paralyzed from the waist down.

“After the accident, I spent time adapting to my life in my new body: first, in a wheelchair, then taking my first steps using a walking frame, and then in intensive rehab. However when I still was in hospital I was already determined to get back to my swimming team, which is what I told my coach”, explains Konkoly.




Eight months later, Konkoly was back in the pool and was even named senior co-captain of her swimming team. However, after a year, her recovery pace started to slow down – this was a hard moment for her.

“I realized that my legs would never be the same body. I’m an athlete, so I’m competitive. I didn’t want to always finish last”.

It was then she discovered the Paralympics. She started winning races, and stopped finishing last. She decided to set herself some objectives: in the long term, to compete at the Paralympic Games; in the short term, to do well at the National Championships; in the short term, to work as hard as she could in every training session.




When she classified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, she trained for 18 months with her swimming coach Paul Yetter and with Sanchez-Casal Academy Florida fitness director Derek Touchette to reach maximum athletic performance.

Mental training made up a huge part of Konkoly’s performance training. She did a lot of work on her mindset and her mindfulness by trying to stay in the moment and relax. She focused on what she was doing step by step: putting her swimsuit on, training, eating, sleeping, and avoided thinking about what could happen if … She wrote down all of these steps and reviewed them to evaluate her performance.

All the hard work produced results last September. Konkoly won the S9 100m freestyle and S9 50m freestyle gold medals, a silver medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay and a bronze medal in the 4x100m medley relay.




The swimmer described how she visualized the competition, the crowd, and her victory every night before going to sleep, for a year and a half, to get her mind ready. This gave her the confidence and motivation to reach her goals.

“If someone asked me if I could go back to when I fell, I would say no. Hitting that rock bottom sharpened the good skills I had before. I said to myself, ‘I’m a good athlete, now I’m going to be a better athlete’. Determination, optimism, it’s all inside you. You can use it, and you should use it, even if you don’t have to face an important life event.”




Michelle Konkoly is a great example of how regardless the difficulty, believing in your actual state, setting goals and training to achieve them may help you reach your ideal state – in Konkoly’s case, becoming an excellent athlete and succeeding in the Paralympics Games. Thank you Michelle for setting such a great example that will inspire many others to come.


Emilio Sánchez Vicario
CEO & Founder at Sánchez-Casal Academy

Thanks to Susana Zaragoza, co-author of this post

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