Julia Gaffney


The backstory:

Julia spent early childhood in a Russian orphanage, where she had both legs amputated due to congenital limb differences (proximal femoral deficiency in her right leg, fibular hemimelia in her left). Adopted by American parents at age five, she began swimming competitively at age 15 and achieved world-class status within two years, winning six medals at the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships. Two years later she set a world record in the 100m backstroke (S7 classification) and won her first gold at the 2019 Worlds. She’s a very strong medal contender for 2021.

Away from the pool:
Julia was inspired to start swimming by Jessica Long. She loves to read, fish, and play basketball.

In her own words:
“My favorite race is definitely the 200 IM [individual medley]. I love doing all four of the strokes and sprinting all four of them. It’s a lot of fun. The freestyle is the key for me. I’m able to have that extra gear and finish those races.”

“Being a Paralympian is an amazing experience. There are some amazing Paralympic athletes. They are just really cool. I feel like I have a family there. It has been so rewarding. I’ve learned to be a leader, I’ve learned confidence, I’ve learned to value myself.”

Learn more:
Team USA
Move United: “Julia Gaffney”
Swim Swam: “Gaffney Takes Down World Record”
KODE: “Gaffney Inspires While Breaking Records”
Team USA: First Paralympics Will Have to Wait


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  • Name: Julia Gaffney
  • Sport:
  • Limb Difference: lower dbl
  • DOB: 5/1/00
  • Residence: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Classification: S7/SB6/SM7