Photo credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports
Leah Hayes, a high school senior and competitive swimmer, has set her sights on making it to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. However, her goal goes beyond competing; she also wants to raise awareness about alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes her hair loss.
Hayes, who was diagnosed with alopecia at the age of 7, found solace in swimming, where she felt comfortable not wearing a wig or swim cap due to her hair loss. Over time, swimming helped her gain confidence, and she now wants to use her platform as an athlete to bring attention to alopecia.
Hayes has already made significant strides in her swimming career. She won a bronze medal in the 200m individual medley (IM) at the world championships and made her Team USA debut. Despite dealing with a stress fracture in her foot, she achieved a time almost four seconds better than her previous Olympic trials time. Hayes's accomplishments also include being named SportsKid of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2018.
Her journey has inspired others with alopecia and autoimmune diseases, as she has become a role model for those looking to embrace their true selves. Hayes is training for upcoming events such as the world championships and the Olympic trials, with the hope of reaching the Olympics and using the international platform to spread awareness about alopecia.
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