Katy Sullivan was born a bilateral, transfemoral amputee – missing both legs through her femur bones. Ultra sounds were not the norm when Katy was born, so the first indication that there was a problem was when Katy’s mom was in the hospital in the pains of labor. Mrs. Sullivan was given anesthesia, but she knew something was amiss before she went under. When she awoke, looking at her husband, wanting to know what happened, she asked him to tell her the truth. He told her Katy was born without her lower legs. Incredulously, she stared at her husband and said, “That’s it?” And, that’s been Katy’s mantra ever since. The absence of her lower legs certainly hasn’t held her back. In Katy’s words, "No, is not a possibility."
Her Younger Years
Growing up in Alabama, Katy’s limb loss wasn’t a big deal. "I never realized I was different. I wasn’t treated differently from my siblings or friends. I believe I didn’t have problems with other kids thinking I was different because I was always honest, not ashamed of it. If I noticed kids staring at me, I would go up to them and answer any questions they had. I would just tell them about it. I do that today, too. It’s all about educating people."
As a youngster, Katy was on the local swim team just like her older sister. She also loved gymnastics and was quite good at the uneven bars due to her upper body strength. In junior high and high school, Katy honed in on her singing and acting talents. The singing group she joined actually sang during the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Katy earned a BFA in Acting from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating, Katy headed to Chicago, where she worked at a number of theatres including the prestigious Goodman Theatre, where she eventually appeared in THE LONG RED ROAD, a play directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Katy currently lives in Los Angeles, working in the film and television industry. You may have seen her on My Name is Earl, NCIS: New Orleans, Last Man Standing, among other tv shows. She co-created SulliFlinn Productions, a female focused production company that has multiple projects in development and was a part of the Producer’s Guild of America Power of Diversity Fellowship in 2015. Katy has also recently returned to the stage in COST OF LIVING, a play that is headed to Broadway in the spring of 2017.
Her Athletic Years
When she first arrived in Los Angeles, her Hanger Clinic prosthetist suggested she try running. Having always been an athletic and active person, she jumped at the chance…literally. "The carbon graphite feet are very springy. It was difficult at first to get the feel for them; how to physically get the hang of it. If there had been a hopping event at track meets, I would have come in first place," Katy reminisced.
Katy was determined. Her philosophy of "I want to do this. I won’t let speed-bumps slow me down," kicked in. Six months later at a running clinic, everything seemed to come together and Katy’s running career began.
Feeling a little out of her element, she said she would rather sing the National Anthem than compete in the 100m! True to form, Katy excelled in the races and quickly became a member of the US Paralympic Track team. In 2007, when she run in the Para Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she became the first double AK amputees, male or female, to compete in ambulatory track in the world.
Katy competed in the 2007 Para Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the 2011 Para Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, the 2011 Paralympic World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand and the 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, and the 2012 Paralympic National Championships where she broke the World Record for the 200m in 2007 and the American Record for the 100m in 2012. She is a four time U.S. Champion in the 100 meters. In 2012, Katy represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Paralympic Games where she set a new American Record of 17.33 seconds and finished 6th in the World among the T-42 class, unilateral above knee women.
Although Katy has retired from competition, she is still a part of the Paralympic movement. In 2016, Katy will work as a Sports Analyst for NBC at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
According to Katy, it’s all perspective. “Part of being successful in life is embracing who you are. Today, a disability doesn’t have to hold you back. It can open doors.” enthuses Katy.
"I want young girls with prosthetic legs and cosmetic feet to know that they can still be soft, that they’re not just made of metal and carbon. They can still be girly and paint their toenails, and wear flip-flops and skirts, backless shoes and heels. They’re still perceived as beautiful. If I can provide people with hope, hope is stronger than any medicine you can take. Hope is such an incredible gift to provide to the world."