SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Jessica Elwart is training in a state of disbelief.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be doing anything on this scale. It doesn’t feel like reality.”
It’s easy to understand why she’s still shocked.
This weekend, she’s venturing off to Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics, an achievement well-earned.
“I pushed and I pushed and I worked hard,” said Elwart who para-kayaks and is on the U.S. National Team.
“It paid off.”
Here’s the best part of this story: She’s only been para-kayaking for a few years, three to be exact.
“I do weights Tuesday, twice on Wednesday and Thursday,” Elwart said. “Friday through Monday, I try to be on the water twice a day.”
She is one of four American para-kayakers who qualified to travel across the world to represent the U.S.
“This is the expected athletes with the expected countries going and basically doing a dry run," Elwart explained. “We’re going to see the venue, get familiar with the area; this event is purely bragging rights.”
She was born with the birth defect called proximal femoral focal deficiency.
“Basically, my knee is in my thigh and I have some hip issues. It’s exactly who I am, it’s how I was born.”
Elwart is an amputee who works as a prosthetist at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Shreveport.
During her workweek, she trains a few days at Red River Crossfit in Shreveport alongside Chris Wells, the gym’s owner.
He’s been touched by her contagious work ethic and optimistic spirit.
“If I could embrace one characteristic of Jillian, it’s definitely her work ethic. We don’t have to be victims to circumstances, circumstances are simply opportunities.”
Elwart’s trip to Tokyo is completely self-funded. She has a GoFundMe campaign.
She also is hosting a profit share dinner this evening at Rotolo’s on East 70th Street in Shreveport, where a portion of the evening’s profits raised from calzone sales will benefit her journey.