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50° Good Morning

Swimmer, model and ESPN host Victoria Arlen meets LI kids

ESPN host and Paralympic athlete Victoria Arlen with

ESPN host and Paralympic athlete Victoria Arlen with Kidsday reporters, from left, Amy Molina, Uchenna Kelly, Mira Oncale-Tippit and Laura Roa at the Jockey Store offices in Manhattan on April 25, 2018. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We met swimmer Victoria Arlen, a gold medalist in the 2012 Paralympic Games. She is also an actress, model, ESPN host and motivational speaker. Her story and her success is just incredible. She went from not being able to walk for years because of two rare conditions that affected her immune system to dancing on stage in “Dancing with the Stars.”

As a young girl, she became very sick and could not walk, talk or even move. It was like she was trapped in her body. The only way she could communicate with people was by blinking. She was in this condition for years, and it took her a long time to recover.

When Victoria came home from her recovery and back to school, she became a victim of bullying. Through it all, her mom helped her stay strong and believe in herself. Because of her courage and strength Victoria is now a model for Jockey and its ad campaign Show ’Em What’s Underneath.

When you were on ESPN, were you nervous or scared?

My first time on ESPN? I was terrified. I didn’t even know how to hold a microphone or ask a question. So I’ve only been on the other side. Michael Phelps was my first interviewee, which made me even more nervous because I’m a swimmer. But it was a lot of fun. He was really nice, and my whole ESPN crew is just spectacular. So they eased my nerves right away.

What inspired you to start dancing?

I had done dance when I was little. I was always a fan of “Dancing With the Stars” but I never really sought out to be a dancer. I didn’t think that I could be a dancer because even if I turned, I would fall over. And “Dancing With the Stars” had reached out and started talking, and we started the conversation, and so I signed on to do it. Then the first day I was like, how am I going to dance? I can’t even feel my legs. And then Val [Chmerkovskiy] proved me wrong every single day.

Why do you like swimming the most?

I love swimming because of the freedom aspect of it. I love being in the water, and there’s no gravity and you can float. When I was paralyzed, I could go in the water and I would just float and I could be free. I didn’t have to have my wheelchair. I didn’t have to have anybody helping me.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I think when individuals are not kind. People are rude. People are unkind. I don’t like that. I think we all should be kind to one another. We should treat others the way we deserve to be treated. So I think my biggest pet peeve is entitlement, unkindness. And people who are just not nice humans.

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