Toccoa-born Coan Wins More Medals on way to 4th Summer Games

Two years ago, Toccoa’s Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Professional Women of Toccoa-Stephens County, boasted an international sports star. 

Paralympic swimming champion and multi-medalist McKenzie Coan, who was born in Toccoa and grew up in Clarkesville, was the parade’s Grand Marshal. She is the daughter of Dr. Marc and Teresa Coan.

At the time, Coan had recently authored a book, Breaking Free, that she had written over the course of the pandemic, and was getting ready to start Law School at Rutgers in 2022 – all while continuing to swim competitively in national and international meets.

Coan was diagnosed at 19 days old with Osteogenesis imperfecta, which is a genetic bone disorder also known as brittle bone disease. Characteristics of the disease include brittle bones, hearing loss, scoliosis and dwarfism – all of which afflict Coan. It was aquatherapy for her condition that bred a love of the water and led her to competitive swimming, which led her to becoming a 3 time Paralympian, now training for her 4th Summer Games next August in Paris.

Coan told WNEG News in 2021 that she really does not like to slow down, saying “I like to juggle a lot of things. I never like to be bored so this keeps things interesting.”

This year, Coan has lived up to those words, despite being forced to withdraw from the world championships this past summer when a respiratory infection turned into an ear infection that turned into a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy, a neurological disorder that causes paralysis or weakness on one side of the face

In an interview with, Coan said “I couldn’t move my mouth at all, couldn’t open or close my left eye, couldn’t breathe out of my left nostril, couldn’t hear out of my left ear. My whole left side of my face wasn’t functioning. They put a pin in the side of my face, and I couldn’t tell you where they put it.”

Two days later, Coan was back in the pool for practice, and on September 23, U.S. Paralympics Swimming named her as part of the team that would travel to the Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile, a qualification opportunity for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.

Those Parapan American Games ended last week, and Coan flew home with six new silver and bronze medals packed in her suitcase.

Coan was not alone in representing Georgia, swimmer William Rankine of Warner Robins brought home a silver and a bronze, and Athens swimmer Madelyn White secured a bronze early in the games, then earned a gold in the 100-meter breaststroke. 

Team USA sent 240 athletes to Chile with athletes winning medals in 15 of the 17 sports on the Games program. 159 Americans landed on the Parapan Am podium, including 51 multi-medalists. Overall, Team USA finished second in the total medal count behind Brazil and ahead of Colombia.

To find out more about Coan’s athletic career, visit her profile on the National Collegiate Athletic Association website, her TeamUSA profile, and her own website.