Welcome to VERCIDA website.

Skip to main content
Enable Recite to make this website accessible

adidas: Three words with McKenzie Coan

Category: Physical Disability, Adidas, Paralympic, Swimmer

red banner with white text reading disability


Belief and determination propel this Paralympic swimmer and 2020 hopeful to gold medal-winning triumph.

Diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease), McKenzie Coan was told that she would never walk or talk.

But at the Rio Olympics in 2016, McKenzie swam her way to three gold medals for Team U.S.A., stepping to the top of the podium for the 50m, 400m and 100m freestyle races and winning silver for the 4 x 100m relay.

Here’s how Paralympic swimmer McKenzie Coan dives deep to turn challenges into opportunities and bring home the gold.


“What fuels me every day is proving people wrong.”

When I was 19 days old, I was diagnosed with this bone condition. The doctors told my parents I would never sit, walk, talk.

The physical therapist told my parents, “You can put her on a shelf and shield her from the hard things in life or you can let her live.” That’s when everything really changed. Instilling the belief that I am just like everybody else is what sets me apart.

The first day that I got in the water for aqua therapy at four or five years old, other people stared at me. I’ve seen that stare before: the doubt in their eyes. My mom threw the life jacket off to the side and threw me in and that was it. I swam six laps without stopping.

What fuels me every day is proving people wrong.


“You can look at a big race like on the world stage at the Olympics as a really scary moment or you can look at it as a moment filled with really great opportunity. ” 

“I break but I get back up again and I keep going.” 

When I get behind the blocks, I know that there’s nothing more I could have done. That gives me peace of mind so when the pressure is on I know I’m ready. It’s an incredible amount of work and it’s an incredible amount of pressure, but I thrive under that.

People ask me, “Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to break?” Yes, that’s a part of my life. I break but I get back up again and I keep going.


“To anyone else facing obstacles, dream big and work hard.” 

My family is everything. They tell me I can do anything I put my mind to. When I’m standing on the podium with the gold medal around my neck, I imagine my family standing right there beside me. This is not a one-person show – it takes a village and it’s their gold medal just as much as mine.

Throughout my life people told me I would never be able to swim, that I’m too fragile. If anything, the challenges that I faced have actually been my biggest advantages. I welcome those challenges. They made me into the strong person I am today.

To anyone else facing obstacles, dream big and work hard. Do not let somebody else tell you what you’re capable of. There’s literally nothing stopping you – the only limitations that exist are the ones that you allow to exist.

Vercida logo

VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

Learn more about this employer


Inclusive features

  • Mentoring
  • Staff Network Groups
  • Mature Students – Late Careers
  • D&I Training and Development
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Armed Forces Support Initiatives
  • Leadership Programmes
  • Talent Development
  • Social Mobility Initiatives
  • Home Working/ Flexible Working Initiatives

Section with Articles you might like

See all articles

You will receive an email with link to reset your password.

Enter your new password