As an emergency physician, Alister Martin, MD, MPP, MGH Emergency Medicine, learned countless lessons working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allie Reilly is no stranger to hard work. For the past two years her typical weekday includes waking up early, training, biking to Mass General, working a full day as a medical assistant in the office of Frank McGovern, MD, Department of Urology, biking home and training again. Sleep. Wake. Repeat.
Reilly’s hard work and dedication earned her a spot on the 2020 Team USA Paralympic rowing team, which won a silver medal in the Tokyo Games last August.
“It was so unbelievable being in the Paralympics,” says Reilly. “The whole experience was really cool, especially meeting so many athletes from all different sports. I typically had been used to only being with other rowers, so being able to meet fellow Team USA members was something that really stood out.”
Reilly—a three-season athlete in high school—had never rowed but secured a spot as a walk-on to her college rowing team in 2015 at the University of Rhode Island. By spring of her freshman year, she was competing in NCAA tournaments.
“In the back of my mind I always thought maybe being a Division 1 athlete in college would be awesome, so I gave rowing a shot,” Reilly says. “I fell in love with the challenge of not being very good at it initially and working hard to become great at it.”
Reilly rowed all four years of her college career and competed in Nationals throughout the world during the summers. It was Reilly’s coach at URI introduced her to the possibility of competing in the Paralympics.
“I was born with a condition called Polydactyly-Syndactyly, basically I had extra fingers and toes webbed together,” Reilly says. “Growing up I had many surgeries for it, and my feet and ankles remain weak. As a bright spot in all that, this is what allowed me to compete in the Paralympics.”
Reilly raced in the PR3 Mixed Four with Coxswain Division, meaning her team included four rowers—both men and women—who have residual function in their legs and can slide in their seats during competition. Reilly’s crew also has the distinction of being the only boat class from the U.S. rowing delegation to medal in Tokyo.
“We went in not knowing quite how well the other teams had been racing these past two years because of COVID,” Reilly says. “We knew we wanted to medal at all costs and put in every effort we were capable of. Knowing we did that, had a great race and gave it everything we could was awesome. While any athlete of course wants that gold, we were pumped with our results.”
Reilly is now training to participate in a doubles boat in the upcoming Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. After that, she hopes that her competitive spirit, determination, and years of hard work and training in McGovern’s outpatient practice will next earn her a place as a Physician Assistant student in one of the graduate programs in Boston.
“Seeing the entire world come together after an intense few years was just awesome,” Reilly says. “Competing again was great, we were all really glad to be there.”
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