Jacqui Kapinowski is competing this weekend in the U.S. Paralympic Rowing Trials at Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park.
“Just to walk out in the opening ceremony and see all the athletes and countries and families and friends and everyone being out there cheering for you,” Kapinowski said.
Kapinowski’s road to Rio hasn’t been easy. She battles bacterial meningitis twice in her 20’s. And in her 30’s Stiff Person Syndrome left the marathon in a wheelchair.
“My parents never thought I would survive or come out of the hospital alive,” Kapinowski said. “I’m really blessed. The preacher read me my last rights. I’m so lucky to be alive today you know.”
Adversity hit Kapinowski again in 2013. She was diasnosed with throat and thyroid cancer, butt still found the strength to complete an Iron Man. Shortly after she was invited to the Paralymic Rowing Camp in March 2015.
“It was a phenomenal week,” Kapinowski said. “To get back in the boat after all those years. It was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Kapinowski is prepping for her qualifying race Sunday. Coach Christopher Swartz says she has a champion mindset.
“Jackie inspires everybody,” Swartz said. “Period. End of discussion. She’s just a wonderful person inside and out.”
Kapinowski finished her time trial Thursday in five minutes and 17 seconds. Next time she crosses the finish line she hopes her time is fast enough to row in Rio.
“To represent this country oh my god,” Kapinowski said. “I take it so serious, you know? It’s just the greatest feeling in the whole world to represent the greatest nation.”
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