Meet Maria Vlezko
18 JAN 2024
Maria was just getting into competitive swimming when she began experiencing symptoms of MS. She had begun training for the Australian Masters Games when she started experiencing spasms in her back, neck and arms and days when she was unable to get out of bed.
Despite her symptoms Maria was determined to keep swimming. She continued to train for an upcoming Masters Championship even following her official diagnosis in September 2022 altering her technique to suit her new condition.
I couldn’t walk for a few weeks, but I was determined to move again. Every day I was lying in bed and trying to move my legs. I was imagining them moving, trying to tense my legs for hours, again and again. Eventually, there was a tiny twitch in the toes, but after that it started coming back little by little. Eventually I built enough strength to take 3 steps, a few weeks later I already could walk 50 metres. I got a bit of independence back, I could then cook my food and stand up for a little while. After about 5 months, I could walk 500 metres.
"One thing that really helped me was water."
Maria started swimming again and found the water was the perfect place for her rehabilitation.
"In the water though it’s much easier to build your strength (when you are really weak) and regain range of movement than on land. The buoyancy and resistance of the water and repetition of movements really helped. My progress was steady until I felt ready to compete again."
After discovering a ‘Multi Class’ swimming competition, available specifically for swimmers with disabilities, Maria decided to commit.
For me the Multi Class competition was the goal I needed, a way to push myself, to refocus and when I won the Go for Gold Scholarship, I thought suddenly things are happening for me again.
"On land I am clumsy and slow, yet in the water I am strong and powerful! I hope to be able to afford training more to keep swimming and ultimately, achieve my dream."
With her MS Go for Gold Scholarship funds, Maria is planning to fund equipment, pool access and some coaching she needs to make it to the top!
Maria also plans to compete in her next local MS Mega Challenge, a 12 or 24-hour relay swim which funds the MS Go for Gold Scholarships
Supporting the Mega Challenge means a lot to people with MS. The event itself gives us a chance to reconnect with society. MS is an invisible condition, it’s like a secret club. Some people with MS have to conceal their diagnosis. They have been given something difficult to deal with and then they feel like they must hide their condition.
A big thank you to the fundraisers who made this possible.
“There are no other MS swimmers in the comps I do. Through participation, I want to educate the general public about MS, about the hidden nature of this condition and its limitations, but also the possibilities".
Before it happened to me, I had no idea what MS was or what it meant. Even at the comps, people will ask me if they can catch MS from me. I want to raise awareness and also to represent the MS community and show how strong we are.
Thank you for supporting people like Maria to achieve their dreams through the MS Go for Gold Scholarships.
Whether it's being able to attend an exercise program, purchase equipment, undertake a course or travel, the scholarships are awarded to people with multiple sclerosis with a wide range of goals and dreams.
Your fundraising will change the lives of many people living with multiple sclerosis.