Profiles in Resilience


Stories from the Summit | Resilience In and Out of the Pool

By Maxwell Svec, One Summit, Director of Programs

By Maxwell Svec, One Summit, Director of Programs

Last month we hosted another Stories from the Summit, with special guest Anna Johannes, Paralympic bronze medalist and current Strategist of Inclusive Design at Interbrand. I met Anna several years ago when we both worked at a pediatric hospital in Boston, where we collaborated on a couple of events together. One of our collaborations revolved around awareness of disabilities and adaptive sports opportunities in athletics. Crossing paths with Anna was one of many experiences in the past decade that have helped me think differently about the world I move around in as a person without a disability.

Anna was born in Kyrgyzstan without her left hand and forearm, and after moving to the United States when she was young, she began swimming on a competitive level. She was pretty darn good at it, as she was soon on her journey to winning a bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Anna faced setbacks, of course, falling just short of the podium in one of her races prior to her medal-winning swim. She also made the difficult decision to end her professional swimming career while training for the 2016 Rio Games. A fall on some ice outside her training facility left her with an injury that made continuing competitive swimming a risky choice. Doing so was severely jeopardizing the use of her right arm and only hand.

While her injury and the end of her swimming career were not part of her plan, she pivoted gracefully and is now on a path that allows her to do tremendously meaningful and important work to better the lives of not only people with disabilities but everyone. As a Strategist for Inclusive Design, her current work allows her to advocate for and create inclusivity improvements in the world around us. Anna says, “when you work to create solutions for people with disabilities, they work for everyone—it makes everyone’s life easier. [It’s] literally what I get to do every day.”

To me, Anna exemplifies posttraumatic growth to a T. While she has faced difficult experiences that have shaped her life, she has embraced the new opportunities borne from them, despite diverging from paths she may have chosen otherwise. What a wonderful, living, breathing example of posttraumatic growth in action. I believe that Anna’s work will change the world, positively impacting all of us. I’m sure it already has.

If you missed the live event in February, click here to watch the video. You’ll hear Anna’s incredible story both in and out of the pool, learn what resilience has meant in her life, and see posttraumatic growth embodied.