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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The inspiring story of McKenzie Coan: a Loyola alumna and Olympian


Recently, Jeffery Bozzi ‘23 and Jimmy Cody ‘23 had the opportunity to interview McKenzie Coan ‘18, a Loyola alumna who has competed in multiple Olympic Games as a swimmer.  

Coan, a six-time Olympic medalist (four gold and two silver), has competed in three Olympic Games to date (London, Rio, and Tokyo). In addition to winning medals at the Olympic level, Coan has won numerous medals at World Championships. She currently resides in Clarkesville, Georgia, and continues to swim at a high level.

A few months after her birth, Coan was already dealing with a life-threatening disease, involving weakened bones that break easily in her body. Coan suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bone disease. 

“I started physical therapy when I was literally just a couple of months old,” she said. 

However, as she aged, Coan used her diagnosis as inspiration for her life. She described how having brittle bone disease “is something that I think has absolutely made me stronger, and I would definitely not be the person I am today without it.”

Learning how to live with the disease, and using it to become a better person every day, is something that Coan lives by. Not only should her words inspire other Paralympians, but the general population, as well.

One of Coan’s most influential mentors is current Loyola swimming coach Brian Loeffler. Loeffler has been at the helm of Loyola swimming for 30 years, and Coan described how, at first, she was “intimidated” by Loeffler during a training session in Stuttgart, Germany. Coan was performing a practice dive, and she remembers looking over at Loeffler and saying to herself, “Whatever you do, don’t mess this up.”

Despite initially fearing Loeffler as a coach at the Olympic level, Coan later explained how when she met Loeffler prior to attending Loyola, he inspired her with an unforgettable statement: 

“You come here, and we’ll get you to where you want to go… I will get you where you want to go.” 

Coan explains how this statement was the “fairytale beginning” of her relationship with Loeffler, and today, she remains in close contact with him as a lifelong best friend.

Another inspiring moment from the interview was from Coan’s time at the 2016 Rio Games. After stepping off the podium and receiving her first-ever gold medal, she greeted her family and Brian Loeffler in the stands, but it was a little girl in a wheelchair that caught her attention.

As Coan noticed the girl waving at her, she immediately motioned for her to come forward. Coan shared how the girl told her:

“I can’t believe I get to meet you…you’re the reason why I believe that I can do this one day.”

According to Coan, those heartfelt words carried so much weight, and she explained how the girl added that “Because of you, I know that this is possible.”

Coan serves as a shining light in the Loyola community and we hope that she continues to serve as a role model for not just other Paralympians, but for society as a whole.

If you would like to check out the full interview, you can do so by clicking here!

Featured Image from WLOY ATW

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The inspiring story of McKenzie Coan: a Loyola alumna and Olympian