Jessica Heims

Life Journey of Jessica Heims

Below is a detailed timeline of Jessica’s life journey and how she has evolved as a woman with a disability, sister, daughter, wife, and a world-class athlete on Team USA.

Life Journey of Jessica Heims

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Jessica was born with amniotic band syndrome. This birth defect caused her right leg to be underdeveloped and deformed. Her right foot was half the size of her right, and only had one toe. After a struggle to keep her alive and stable, her family is faced with the reality that she will have to navigate the rest of her life with a disability


After a year of trying to salvage the underdeveloped right foot, her parents decided to amputate.

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Jessica started elementary, where she was the only amputee in her whole school. Despite looking different from all the other kids, she discovered that she loved being active and playing with her friends. She tried many sports, and learned that sometimes disabilities make us do things in a slightly different way. Sometimes that caused pain, and sometimes that caused laughter- like when she went to kick a soccer ball and her leg went flying off. Her friends used the other team’s distraction to their advantage and scored a goal!


 Jessica found track and field when she was 10 years old, and immediately fell in love. Inspired by their older sister, she and her younger sister joined a local youth track club.


The Heims family heard about an adaptive meet in Oklahoma and took a trip there to check it out. They had no idea what it would be like, but they immediately realized they belonged to their newfound community. Jessica learned about other disabilities and discovered the world of para athletics. After this meet, she got fitted for her first sports prosthetic at the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Minnesota.


Jessica made her first Jr Worlds team and flew to Puerto Rico to compete. She ran the 100m, 200m, and 400, and threw the discus. She realized at this meet that she adored international competition.


Jessica made her first international team with US Paralympic T&F at the 2015 Worlds in Qatar. She competed in the 400m and discus, where she placed 5th in both events. This experience fueled her desire to make the Paralympic team the following year.


Jessica attended her first Paralympic Trials and made the US Paralympic team in the 400m and the discus. She traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to compete among the best athletes in the world. The whole trip was a dream to her, and she felt truly at home competing on the international stage. Her favorite memory from her first Paralympic Games was the first time she saw her family at the stadium. Her family had supported her from day one, and she was so honored to compete with them watching.


Jessica wanted to compete in college, and struggled with rejection from teams who were not fit to work with an adaptive athlete. When she met with the coaching staff at the University of Northern Iowa, she knew it was a perfect match. She was the first adaptive athlete at the university, and she was honored to use her platform as a way to teach others about the Paralympics. She sprinted and threw discus all 4 years she attended. 


Jessica’s first national record was thrown at a meet at the University of Iowa in spring of 2018. Her entire team was ecstatic for her.


Jessica’s first world record was thrown at a meet in Wisconsin in 2019. Her team was once able to witness this feat, and she was honored to share the moment with so many of her friends. She made the Para PanAmerican team in Peru that fall and won her first international gold medal in the discus throw.


Jessica had a busy year in 2021- she got engaged, graduated with a biology degree with honors, set a new national record, made her second Paralympic team, and got married. Although her family was not able to watch her compete in the Tokyo Paralympics in person, they hosted a watch party at their home in Swisher, Iowa. They cheered her on as she placed 5th in the women’s F44/64 discus throw. This accomplishment was made more impressive by the fact that she was the highest placing F64 thrower in the mixed-classification event


Jessica’s first professional season was in 2022, where she enjoyed navigating the new world of full-time training and competition.


 Jessica made her second Para PanAmerican team, and she traveled to Chile to compete. She threw the discus with two other American athletes and won a silver medal.

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