The Colony sophomore Olivia Molnar is one of five para-athletes in the U.S. that has been selected for the Team USA Triathlon and Challenged Athletes Foundation Para-triathlon Junior/U23 Development Program.
In order to be considered, Molnar had to fill out a questionnaire that had been posted on the Team USA’s website. Team USA wanted to know why she should be considered for the development program, as well as what athletic events has she competed in, such as running, biking and swimming.
Molnar was informed of her selection onto the team two months ago but wasn’t allowed to say anything until a press release was issued by Team USA three weeks ago.
"It surprised me,” she said. “We were in a restaurant, and I got an email. We started freaking out. Everybody I thought that I got into a university. I actually got a free slice of cheesecake out of it."
Molnar is currently preparing for training camp, set to be held at the end of June. The US Junior Nationals for a Para-triathlon is scheduled for July in Colorado. Molnar is also slated for a Para-triathlon in Chula Vista, Calif.
Molnar was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was first born.
However, cerebral palsy hasn’t slowed her down from living an active life. Two years ago, she tried para-sports for the first time. A social worker at a hospital made the suggestion to Molnar. The first para-sport that Molnar tried was wheelchair basketball.
Molnar’s family got connected with wheelchair basketball through Darlene Hunter, a two-time Paralympian who won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
"Basketball wasn't Olivia’s cup of tea, but the coaches led us to all of these other sports, such as wheelchair racing and swimming,” said Karen Molnar, Olivia’s mother. “That's how we found para-tri. It had wheelchair races with wheelchair users."
Molnar swims for The Colony High School as well as for Metroplex Aquatics Swim Club. For her swim club, she competes in the 200 individual medley, 50 breaststroke and 50 freestyle, but for the Lady Cougars, she swims in just the breaststroke and freestyle.
Molnar also competes for The Colony’s track and field team. This season, she competed at the UIL state wheelchair meet in Austin in three events: shot put, 100 race and 400 race. Molnar placed sixth in the shot with a personal best of 14-2 3/4, seventh in the 400 with a PR of 1:35.6 and eighth in the 100.
"It was really nice,” she said. “I didn't know what to expect. Finally going there and being in the arena was super fun. I was stressing out beforehand because I was so nervous, but it was fun because I knew everybody there."
Other wheelchair parathletes that Molnar knew at the state meet in Austin are Flower Mound’s Abigail Counts and Hebron’s Katy Broadbent – all three compete against each other throughout the spring high school season as well as at non-UIL sanctioned meets.
"We're all best friends,” Molnar said. “Once we get going, we can't stop talking. We can talk for hours."
Molnar is the first-ever wheelchair athlete at The Colony High School.
Originally from Valparaiso, Ind., the Molnar family lived in Bangalore, India, for four years, before relocating to The Colony.
"We've told always Olivia in all of her life that she has been the unicorn,” Karen said. “When she was growing up, she was the only kid that has been disabled. We always told her that she is a trailblazer for all of the kids that are behind her.”
Olivia said that she didn’t like to be treated differently. She didn’t like going through what she had to endure. But, now that she has gone through it and has made the school’s track team, she said that it makes her feel good about herself.
Other children have looked up to Olivia, including a 10-year-old girl from The Colony. The girl’s mother contacted the Molnar family and told them, “I don’t know who this girl is, but I want her to meet my daughter. My daughter also has cerebral palsy. Thank you so much for being a role model.”
“It made me feel accomplished,” Olivia said.