Elite Sports & Culture Week spotlight: Amanda Everlove

PHOTO SUBMITTED Amanda Everlove in the pool.

Amanda Everlove is to be among the 20-plus Olympians and Paralympians in the Tiffin area Oct. 23-25 for Elite Sport and Culture Week hosted by Tiffin University, Mercy Health – Tiffin Hospital, Terra State Community College and National Machinery.

Growing up in Valencia, California, Everlove was unlike any other 8-year old: She hated to lose. As a member of her neighborhood swim team, she stood out among her peers, though swimming at the time was not the only sport she was passionate about.

In a recent interview, the former Paralympic champion opened up about her other true love and how a freak accident would change her life forever.

“When I was a kid, I really loved horses and horseback riding. I was lucky enough that once a week I would go to horseback riding lessons.”

Amanda recalled a routine she had done numerous times. However, on that day in February 1999, that normal routine would be anything but.

“It’s funny, because that day I wasn’t supposed to go. I had been away on a camping trip and we just managed to get back in time for me to go.”

So Amanda and her mom, along with a friend whom she would take the lesson with, made the trip.

“It was a normal lesson at the end, which was in an arena. I was on one end and the instructor was letting out the rest of the class on the other end. So I kicked my horse to go, and I did kick her pretty hard, but I was 8 years old ,so I could probably only kick so hard.”

That kick would start a snowball affect that precipitated the perfect storm. The horse took off running. From Amanda’s recollection, the only thing she knew how to do was pull back on the reigns of the horse to get her to slow down. This is where things get a little unclear. “From what I can remember, I couldn’t hold on anymore, and this is where I have a black hole in my memory.”

Amanda would suffer a severe concussion, but eyewitness accounts fill in the remainder of the story. From what everyone could surmise, at the exact time Amanda was pulling on the reign with her right arm to slow the horse down, the horse violently snapped her head in the opposite direction, tossing Amanda to the ground.

Encircled by parents and instructors, Amanda laid lifeless on the ground. Amanda woke up to excruciating pain in her right arm. Amanda later would learn she had torn the brachial plexus in her right arm. The brachial plexus are nerves connected to the spinal chord that send signals to the arm (Mayo Clinic, n.d.). Amanda would go on to have surgery to try to repair the damage, but later learned her right arm would be paralyzed forever.

As a part of her recovery, Amanda was restricted in what she could do. As fate would have it, Amanda began physical therapy with a hydro-therapist who got her back in the pool. Amanda’s therapy began to rekindle her love for the water. Upon seeing the positive impact these sessions were having for her, Amanda’s therapist encouraged her to rejoin the swim team.

After several years of competing on the neighborhood swim team and later in middle school, freshman year in high school would be a turning point. Years after the accident, Amanda believed her arm would return to normal and she would be able to compete at a higher level. It wasn’t until her first year in high school that she gained some function back, but quickly realized she wouldn’t get back the function she once knew.

After her dad shared what he learned about the Paralympics, Amanda found her next goal: the 2008 Beijing Paralympic games.

Amanda retired from swimming after the 2012-2013 season and later went on to receive a doctorate in pharmacy.

For more information on Elite Sport & Culture Week and to learn how 600 youth can work out and read this summer to earn a sport bag and a picture with an Olympian access www.tiffin.edu/elite.

— submitted by Tiffin University