From Preemie To Special Olympics, She Has Defied All Odds

By Aaron Morrison
The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

TEANECK, N.J.

At birth, Alyssa Sims could fit snugly in her father’s hand, she was about the size of his snow glove.

Born 2 1/2 months premature by C-section, she had to fight for life from the moment of delivery. Sims and her mother suffered from a prenatal condition that came close to being fatal for both of them.

“We were killing each other,” said Renee Herriott, Sims’ mother.

As a result, Sims’ lungs and central nervous system didn’t function properly, requiring a 2 1/2 month stay in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

She developed cerebral palsy. But despite that, Herriott said, progress came quickly, so much so that by the time Alyssa was a toddler, it was clear she would excel beyond the hopes of her loving and protective family.

They still pinch themselves at the thought that their tiny baby, now a 30-year-old woman, is a world-class Special Olympian.

As he watched his daughter’s wobbly balance on the uneven bars recently at Elite Gymnastics in Hawthorne, N.J., Rudolph Sims said: “I remember when she didn’t have the courage to do that. We were not expecting that she would do that well in gymnastics. It didn’t seem practical, when she approached us about it. She blew us all away.”

Nursing a recent knee injury, Alyssa Sims needs her body to be in top shape when she competes with a team of two dozen American gymnasts in the World Special Olympics competition in Los Angeles next summer.

Expectations are high for Sims, who raked in four gold medals and one silver at last year’s national competition in New Jersey. She wants to win big again, but not at the expense of enjoying the journey.

“I’m just keeping things low key for now,” Sims said at a recent training session. “I’ll work as hard as I can and get my stamina up. And I’ll have fun.”

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