ASU triathlon alumna Allysa Seely perseveres through health complications

Seely had her left leg amputated below the knee, but that did not stop her from being a Paralympian and two-time gold medalist

When ASU triathlon alumna Allysa Seely had her left leg amputated below the knee, she faced challenges that most don't face in their lifetimes. The two-time Paralympic gold medalist for Team USA in paratriathlon also recently suffered from a blood clot in her heart, but she never stopped competing.

Seely, who graduated from ASU in 2013 and competed with Sun Devil Triathlon, was in and out of the hospital multiple times in the last year. Her hard work and passion for triathlon led her to reach new highs this year, but her medical conditions had her reach her low points too.

Earlier this year, Seely was diagnosed with endocarditis, or severe inflammation of the heart, causing her to be hospitalized last October. She was in and out of the ICU, and there were times she said she was fighting for her life. 

"The past 18 months have been the most challenging 18 months of my career," Seely said.

Her health challenges would be enough to make many want to retire, but not Seely. However, it is not the gold medals or world championships that push her to keep going, but rather the chance to chase her goals and dreams while not being defined by her disabilities. Seely also believes that having the ability to advocate for people struggling with health complications is a big motivating factor as well.

"For a long time, doctors or other people in the world would try to define what my life would look like because of my disability or my chronic illness," Seely said. "To be able to take that back and define my own life and chase my own dreams and goals despite what I've been told I could or couldn't do, that's what makes it worth it."

Seely trains tirelessly to be the best in her sport. Every day, she trains from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., doing two to three workouts during the day. After a long day of training, she'll finish up with a meeting with coaches or sports medicine. 

"She is very goal-driven and works tirelessly to achieve those goals," said Derick Williamson, 2020 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon team coach. 

Despite all of the medical challenges she's faced over the past year, Seely's hard work has paid off. She defended her gold medal for Team USA at the 2020 Paralympic games in Tokyo after winning gold in the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

Seely's list of accomplishments stretches far beyond the Paralympics. She has competed at seven ITU Paratriathlon World Championships, placing on the podium six times and winning it three times.

"Allysa has one of the strongest work ethics of any athlete I know. She never gives in and fights for what she wants and deserves," teammate Grace Norman said. "She is hungry for excellence, she is fierce and she is a phenomenal athlete."

However, Seely still struggles with complications, dealing with severe migraines almost every day. The migraines affect her life on a daily basis and make it harder for Seely to focus on training. She had gone to multiple doctors with no solution provided to cure her migraines, causing her to want to give up. 

"I was having migraines almost every day and it wasn't until I switched doctors that they had re-opened that conversation," Seely said. 

After finding a solution that worked for her, she partnered with Eli Lilly and Company and worked with one of its initiatives called Think Talk Treat, which encourages people to find the right care for migraines.

Seely encourages those with migraines to advocate for themselves and use Think Migraine as a resource to help them find a solution just like she was able to. 

"I think it is really important to push how important it is for patients to advocate for themselves," Seely said. 

Clarification: This story was updated on Oct. 14 at 7:38 p.m. to clarify Allysa Seely’s partnership.


Reach the reporter at ahoppes1@asu.edu and follow @aviannahoppes on Twitter.

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