Paralympian trains in Carlsbad, told she's not disabled enough

Victoria Arlen won gold in Paralympics in London

CARLSBAD, Calif. - A Paralympian told she was not disabled enough is receiving therapy in Carlsbad in hopes of one day walking again.

Victoria Arlen is a force in the water, breaking world records and winning gold in the 100m freestyle in the Paralympic Games in London. 

"I swim because I love it. I play sports because I love it," Arlen said.

The athlete does it all without using her legs. Arlen is paralyzed. A rare neurological disorder attacked her spine and brain at the age of 11.

"I was in a vegetative state for three and a half years and then came out and basically had to learn to do everything," she said.

Despite her diagnosis, the International Paralympic Committee said it is not enough. 

Arlen made national headlines this summer when five medical experts determined she "failed to provide conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment" and disqualified her from future competition.

"It's disheartening. Being penalized for having hope was really hard because if I didn't have hope, I wouldn't be here today," the Boston native said.

Her search for hope brought her to Project Walk in Carlsbad.

Project Walk focuses on spinal cord injury recovery, providing treatment through activity-based recovery programs, education, training, and development. 

All the exercises get Arlen out of her wheelchair and on her feet.

Arlen is determined to use her feet on her own, but for now she receives help from specialists.

"Trying to get my legs to do the work ... they haven't been too reliable in the last seven and a half years," Arlen said.

"The important thing is education and awareness and letting people know that that initial diagnosis is not the end of the world for you," said recovery specialist Jillienne Feather.

While swimming in the Paralympics is on hold, the 19-year-old's future plans are not.

"I love acting, so I've been pursuing that and I hope to be continuing to speak and spread my message around the world and hopefully be walking in high heels one day," Arlen said. 

Walking is not a certainty, but if she has her way, she will get there.

"This has just been an incredible journey and as much as certain things I wouldn't choose, I wouldn't change it," she said.

10News contacted the IPC. A spokesperson said the initial decision regarding Arlen still stands, unless there is new evidence regarding her condition.

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