SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – The 2012 Paralympic games just wrapped up in London, and the Inland Northwest had a good showing, with four local athletes competing.
Kristen Messer was one of them. She went to the games to compete in the 100m and 200m races. During track practice back in late-July, she told KHQ's Kelsey Watts her goal was to set a personal record. But she rolled right past that, bringing home a new world record in the 100m.
But her accomplishments mean even more because she was born with Cerebral Palsy, and the part of the brain that tells her how to walk doesn't work. At birth, her parents were told to abandon all expectation for her; she'd likely remain a vegetable on the couch.
But now, at age 25, Messer a world-class wheelchair athlete, and inspires people all over the world. In London, an Australian competitor came up to her as a fan, saying she'd been following Messer's races and accomplishments, and wished her good luck – even though she was competing against her in the 100m.
"It was a definite moment for me, it was great," Messer said.
She's been competing for 10 years, and went to the Beijing trials, but just missed making the team. She's had her sights set on London ever since.
"When I was little, I didn't know what the doctors expected or didn't expect, but I think from the aspect of my family it makes it that much sweeter," she told KHQ.
She just got home from London Monday night, and her suitcase is still filled with all the London swag – outfits for the opening and closing ceremonies, her access pass to the Olympic Village, even the Paralympian-themed comforter from her bed there.
Paralympic races are divided into classes based on physical ability. Messer is a T-33, but to her knowledge, is the only athlete competing in the circuit at that level right now. So, she was allowed to compete with the T-34's, the next class up. She finished 6th overall, but her time set a new world record for her class.
"To me, that is a medal, because I'm the best in my class," Messer reported right after her race in London.
She went on to also compete in the 200m prelims, but barely missed qualifying for the final. She finished 4th instead of 3rd.
"I was less than a second away from qualifying," she said.
A heart breaker to be sure; but Messer said that didn't sour the London experience for her at all.
"10 years ago I started at the very bottom of the totem pole," Messer added. "I've achieved my goals, and without at least that little glimmer of hope and that dream, I wouldn't be here."
But the excitement isn't over yet. Bright and early Thursday morning, Messer and many other Paralympians are heading to the White House to meet President Obama.
As for Rio in 2016? Messer says: "Never say never."