2014 Adult National Open and Great Lakes Regional Games. (photo by Reed Hoffmann, courtesy Disabled Sports USA.This week, Amanda Malawski, 14, will compete in the 2015 IPC Athletics Grand Prix Finals in London, England.

Amanda and her twin brother Alex, who was also born with CP, grew up racing against each other near their Illinois home. Their first introduction to adaptive sports was at age nine when they got involved in a club near their home.

“We only did swimming and track and field, and only the 100 [meters],” said Amanda.

Once Amanda and Alex became more active, the family started attending practices at Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA), a chapter of Disabled Sports USA. While GLASA was a bit farther from their house, the organization gave the siblings an opportunity to participate in more sports, more events and receive higher-level coaching.

Now Amanda participates in triathlons, swimming, long jump and the 100, 200 and 400 meter distances in track. Her favorites are the long jump and the 200 meters.

“I feel like it’s my best event. It’s not hard, but it’s not easy. I guess I just make it look easy,” said Amanda with a laugh.

This ease comes from hours of practice. Because commuting through the Chicago suburbs can be time consuming, Amanda trains closer to their home during the week, practicing four or five days a week under her mom’s supervision following a calendar her coaches have put together. She also trains with her high school team during track season alongside her able-bodied teammates.

When Amanda heads to London at the end of this month for the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Finals, it will be her first international Paralympic competition, but the young athlete is no stranger to high-level international meets.

In 2013 she qualified for the International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports Federation Games (IWAS) in Puerto Rico, but was too young to make the team. The cutoff requires you to be 14 the year of the games and Amanda was only 12.

“I was kind of sad, but it was awesome to know I had qualified when I was so young,” said Amanda.

2014 Adult National Open and Great Lakes Regional Games. (photo by Reed Hoffmann, courtesy Disabled Sports USA.The next year, she made her debut at the IWAS games in London, and earlier this summer she competed in the Netherlands where she came home with four bronze medals.

Amanda hopes to one day make the ParaPan team, and then perhaps a Paralympics. She’s even looking at colleges with programs for adaptive athletes, her top choice is currently the University of Texas-Arlingon. But for now she’s taking it one competition at a time and enjoying the camaraderie amongst both her teammates and competitors.

“I like how I’m really close with my teammates and people I race against. My friends understand what I’m going though. We understand each others struggles,” she said.

This camaraderie is the reason she encourages others to participate in adaptive sports.

“Just try it. It’s not harm done if you don’t like it, and you’ll have tons of other friends when you’re done.”