Not a lot of athletes can lay claim to a silver medal at a worldwide athletic competition. But then there aren’t a lot of athletes like Ana Kohout.
A few days after arriving home, 15-year-old Kohout talked about her experience at the 2014 International Wheelchair and Amputee Junior World Games, held just outside of London.
She summed it up in three simple words:“It was amazing.”
Kohout won a silver medal in the 200-meter freestyle swim, one of the five races she participated in at the games, where 31 nations were represented with a total of 324 athletes. The games are held every year with the exception of summer Olympics/Paralympics years.
“I was really surprised,” she said. “I was very happy as how well I did.”
Kohout established personal best times in all of her events, highlighted by the winning of the silver medal.
“She really stepped up to the plate with her solid swims,” said Glen O’Sullivan, Kohout’s coach at the Lake Forest-based Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association. He also went to the games, where he coached the entire U.S. swim team in addition to Kohout.
“Every one of my athletes is a special athlete,” O’Sullivan said. “They are comparable to any athletes out there, either able bodies or those with a disability. She put in a lot hours getting ready for the meet and it showed in her performances.”
Out of the pool, O’Sullivan noticed Kohout shook off some initial shyness during the week-long trip to the birthplace of the Paralympics games.
“She became more outgoing as the week went on as she met more athletes from the U.S. as well as the other nations represented,” he said.
Kohout was escorted on the trip by her grandmother but got to stay in the dorms with the rest of the athletes.
“We all became good friends,” she said. “We spent 24/7 with each other.”
Kohout noted the time the athletes really got to know each other occurred when they were in the hallway at the dorm, which was the only hotspot location for their mobile devices.
Competing in London was just one of many serious challenges Kohout has faced. She has had to battle spina bifida throughout her life but has been determined to show athletic prowess in both swimming and sled hockey. She has been swimming since she was four and is now a member of the Lake Forest High School and the Lake Forest Scout team.
“My disability only bothered me when I was little,” she says. “I don’t see it as a challenge anymore.”
Her mother, Areta Kohout, was thrilled with the accomplishment, which came in part because of her daughter’s strong performances at the National Junior Disability Championships.
“It was super exciting for us,” she said. “It was something she worked very hard for.”
Now Ana Kohout is preparing for the upcoming LFHS school year and the girls swim season.
But don’t expect O’Sullivan to let her rest on her recent efforts.
“I saw good things coming out of her at the games,” he said. “I now expect to see more good things coming out of her swimming career.”