COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – Many athletes are watching the 2016 Rio Olympic Games hoping that they too may someday be able to participate. One Columbiana County athlete shares the same dream, but for the Paralympics.
Chelsi Figley is a decorated powerlifter that has qualified for World Paralympic Championships in Malaysia and Dubai. She’s currently 10th in the world in her class.
Figley, who has been training at The Workout Center in Columbiana, said she hopes she will get to the Paralympics one day, but she knows that it will take a lot of mental and physical work.
“I’ve always wanted to be an Olympian, like whenever I was little, and I didn’t know what the Paralympics were until early adulthood,” she said.
Figley didn’t go to qualifiers for the 2016 Paralympics for personal reasons, but she said she has her sights set on both the 2020 and 2024 games. This year’s Paralympics will follow the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and are scheduled for September 7-18.
Figley has Spina Bifida, a birth deflect that caused her to be paralyzed from the waist down. She wants to compete in the bench press competition in the Paralympics, so her coach, Brian Raneri, gets creative with training.
“It’s quite a bit different,” he said. “You gotta look at different leverages and what you have to do. You can see how we belt her down to keep her, because she has nothing from the waist down.”
Figley says she is willing to put in the work.
“You do what you have to do, whether you want to or not,” she said. “I lift three days a week. I do cardio three days a week. Brian uses an EMS machine on my muscles.”
Over the past seven years, the gym has become Figley’s safe haven. She says there she is not treated differently because she is in a wheelchair.
She offered advice to others in similar situations.
“You’re not inferior. I think that’s all I really needed to know,” she said.