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McKenzie Coan          

Paralympic Swimmer on Team USA; Paralympic Gold Medalist; Author & Motivational Speaker

McKenzie Coan is a professional swimmer, public speaker, disability advocate, and author. She first took to the water for aqua therapy to help with her osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). But it wasn’t long after her brothers joined a swim team that she declared her days in the "baby pool" over.

Coan made her first U.S. Paralympic National Team at 15 in 2012 and has been a part of Team USA every year since. She competed in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and in 2016, she won four medals in Rio de Janeiro, including three gold. At the 2020 Tokyo Games, she defended her title from Rio in the 400-meter freestyle and took second in the 100 free.

She is an eight-time World Champion and two-time world record holder in the category S7 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyles. Coan published her first book, Breaking Free – Shattering Expectations and Thriving with Ambition in Pursuit of Gold, in 2021. The memoir explains why she believes her genetic condition happened for her – not to her – and how she lives an unexpectedly full life while performing at the top of her sport.

Speech Topics

McKenzie's Life Perspective

“I will always see my disability as something that happened for me, not something that happened to me”


McKenzie has broken well over 100 bones in her lifetime and believes each one has only made her stronger.

“Never allow anyone to dictate what you’re capable of”

McKenzie was told as a child that she was too fragile to pursue her dreams. McKenzie believes you should never allow someone to dictate your dreams or capabilities. Where would she be if she had listened to others?

Balancing Life & Developing Competitive Edge

How can we best cope with the pressures and expectations when it matters most?

And how can that be applied to everyday life?

McKenzie has spent many years balancing her swimming dreams and other life goals. She shares her experiences training full-time with the National Team while balancing full-time division 1 swimming and academics.

Disability Empowerment & Advocacy

“One of my life missions is to educate others about disability and how to look beyond impairments to see the possibilities”

From a young age, McKenzie has learned to advocate for herself. It was critical to her survival and it is a skill she hopes to pass onto others that can be used not only in disability advocacy, but in everyday life. McKenzie shares how she has grown and come to not only accept her disability, but how she has embraced it and succeeded because of it.

Female Empowerment & Leadership

“As a female athlete and aspiring female attorney, one of my key messages is female empowerment in every part of life”

McKenzie speaks to the importance of female athletes sticking with their sports and how we can make funding and resources more available to female athletes. She also discusses her leadership as Team USA captain at the Paralympic Games and other National Team events, and how those experiences have impacted her as a female leader.

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