Athlete Spotlight: Multi-Sport Oregonian Sara Slawta

Welcome back to #WithoutLimitsWednesday, where every week we feature the story and achievements of one of our talented athletes — who they are, what they love, and how they got there…

“Through her dedication to sport, art and music… Sara shines as an individual yet remains open to coaching and is able to continually improve because of it, setting a great example as part of our US National Swim Team.”
by Frank E. Barberena

For this week’s athlete spotlight we stay in the pool but move to the west coast to introduce Talent, Oregon’s most talented: Sara Slawta. Anyone who meets Sara will attest to her affable presence and smile that lights up a whole room. At first glance, many may not expect that behind such a kind young woman is a very gifted and decorated world-class competitor.

Sara began her athletic career with distance running boasting a 7.5 minute mile at the age of just nine. As she matured in the sport, she went on to win second place at her middle school district competition with a time of 13:11 in the 3000 meter run, and could cover 8 miles in just over an hour. By the age of 13 running had became a passion and an outlet for her.

In eighth grade, Sara’s competitive running came to an end due to an injured hip flexor, but a new fire burned in her to train and compete which led to her next passion, cycling. Years before, Sara had fallen from her bike into some gravel making her a bit scared to get going again and this kept her off the bike for a full three years. However, once she found the courage to get back on, she found her niche in hill climbing. With no shortage of mountains in Oregon she would go on to compete, and by the age of 14 completed a 28-mile climb up to 14,000 feet!

Now 24, Sara has taken her talents to the pool and swims in the Elite group at Superior Stingray Swimming at the Superior Athletic Club in Medford, Oregon. Training every day for two hours under coaches Scott Kohlmeier and Siouxha Tokman, Sara is the only member of her club with an intellectual disability. In a feature article on Sara published last year in the Mail Tribune, Coach Tokman was quoted as saying “She keeps up with them, and we have a lot of good swimmers in this group. “She’s competitive, and she always looks for ways to get better.”

Sara is also a decorated international swimmer competing for Athletes Without Limits as part of the US National Team at Inas World and Regional Championships. After meeting her goal of competing for the USA at the 2017 INAS World Swimming Championships in Mexico, Sara has her eyes set on the 2019 Inas Global Games and 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo — both prominent global events for high-performance athletes with intellectual impairment.

When she is not training, working or riding, Sara applies her practice-makes-perfect attitude to her two other great loves, art and singing, taking regular lessons in both. This makes her “one of the most well-rounded athletes I’ve enjoyed traveling with to events,” says Julie Holman, Athletes Without Limits co-founder (and fellow Oregonian). “Through her dedication to sport, art and music, Sara shines as an individual yet remains open to coaching and is able to continually improve because of it, setting a great example as part of our US National Swim Team.”

With the support of her family, teammates, and coaches Sara has learned that the spirit of competition — whether running, biking, or swimming — can awaken an unparalleled focus and commitment from anyone who is ready to take the challenge. By doing so, Sara serves as a testament to what it’s like to live life without limits.