Paralympian Kapinowski Gunning for Spot on US Rowing Team

By John Evenson/CBS12

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) - Since losing the use of both of her legs 20 years ago, Jacqui Kapinowski has taken part in over 80 marathons and won bronze medals for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in both curling and the triathlon. But another major health setback has now inspired her to push the bar even further. This time on the water.

The word unbreakable comes to mind when it comes to Jacqui Kapinowski - "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Jacqui asks. "Is that how the saying goes?"

Bacterial meningitis in her 20's almost took her life, causing her to lose the use of her legs in her mid 30's. 

"I went from running to using canes. I pushed my walker at 3 marathons including the Palm Beach Marathon down here."

Now almost 20 years later she hits the water in between Ironman races, poised to represent Team USA. This time in rowing - her response to being diagnosed cancer in 2013.

"It's one thing to have a disability but to have cancer on top of it," says Coach Susan Saint Sing. "It's a pretty hard hand to be dealt."

"Every day when I'm on that boat I'm like wow," says Jacqui. "I am 52 years old and I get to have the chance to represent the best country in the world."

Jacqui is one week away from competing at nationals in New Jersey - then at the world trials to earn a spot on Team USA. Her ultimate goal is to beat cancer, and to win Olympic gold.

"She keeps that positive attitude," says Saint Sing. "I think she would inspire millions of people worldwide."

"Everyone has a story and I don't think mine is that bad," adds Jacqui. "You know. I think I'm doing A-OK."

After all she's used to battling, and she's used to winning.