But then the same case attacked her right leg and Doctors performed a second amputation Below the knee in October 2019. Once again, Stickney is back at work, learning first how to sit in bed, then get up and down from a wheelchair, and then how to walk on prosthetics. A few months later, she’s back in the pool again, this time without legs, but still determined to compete at the highest level. At every step of her journey, and with every achievement, she had the support of her parents, Tony and Sherry.
To chase Morgan’s dream, The Stickneys sold their New Hampshire home and moved to North Carolina so Morgan could train with Payne, a USA swimming coach who also teaches at Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary. Payne has worked with many medal-winning athletes, but was not a disabled swimmer. The Stickneys considered other coaches, but chose to gamble on someone who had no experience with swimmers who had lost their feet.
“Because I grew up physically capable, I didn’t feel like it was too risky,” Morgan Stekeney said. “I was used to this kind of training. The biggest danger was moving and my dad’s work.”
The adventure paid off, as Tony Stickney found work as a facility manager for Dell Computers. More importantly, the styrene, athletic, has thrived since she joined forces with Payne, who has helped improve her strokes to make them more efficient. Stickney said she wouldn’t be very close to her goal without her work with Payne, but the coach and swimmer agree that something else helped her cut 30 seconds off her time in less than two years, is something inside of her.
“I don’t know how many people are going to put in the amount of work I do,” Stickney said. “A lot of people would think it had to do with talent. Honestly, it’s pure hard work that got me where I am today.”
In April, Stickney swam the 400m in 4:43:70 at the FINA World Championships in Louisville, Texas, topping the world No. 1 rankings (by about half a second) from the swimming legend. Jessica LongShe has won 25 Paralympic medals, including 14 gold. Stickney’s time was the fastest an S8 swimmer has had since Patterson set the world record in Rio. Stickney’s problem was that she still had to find 3.37 seconds somewhere.
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