If anyone knows what it's like to be in pain, it's probably 21-year-old Anna Eames. Born with fibular hemimelia, the length of Eames' legs are uneven. She has three toes on her right foot, an abnormal ankle joint and hip dysplasia. Eames has undergone 20-some surgeries.
"I started swimming when I was 5 years old because it was an activity I could do without pain," Eames said. "I've been doing it ever since."
When Eames was a senior at l, she won her first gold medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games in the 100 meter butterfly. Her time, 1:09.26, was an American record. That year, she also brought home a bronze medal in the 100 meter freestyle.
"Anna always brought to the pool a real desire to get better," said Nate Kremer, Hopkins High School girls swimming coach. "She's one of the hardest workers I've coached in swimming."
Kremer said the girls on the swim team were amazed by Anna's ability to swim without any modifications. "She brought very little attention to the fact that she had a disability," Kremer recalled. "But in getting to her know, I learned that she was in a lot of pain."
To help cope, Anna turned to Golden Valley's Courage Center and was a member of the organization's competitive swim team. Eames was one of a handful of Courage Center athletes who represented the United States in the Paralympic Games this year.
In London, Eames, who was the American Paralympic co-captain, won silver in the 400 meter freestyle relay. She also took 6th in the 100 meter butterfly, 6th in the 100 meter freestyle and 8th in the 50 meter freestyle.
"Being voted team captain of the 2012 Paralympic Team was one of the biggest honors I've ever had," Eames said.
On Sept. 10, Eames returned to Minnesota and made the trek back to Gustavus Adolphus College, where she's also a swimmer and biology major.
"I am going to swim my senior season with [my team]," Eames said. "And then I plan on going into genetic counseling."