NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Many athletes have overcome adversity to achieve their goals, but one local swimmer recovered from an injury and found much more on her way to the top of the podium.
She's the focus of this week's Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.
"I want to be remembered for the person who never gave up," said Michal Liberman. "I have a lot of passion for the sport."
She was born to swim. She represented Israel in the European championships and the World Games.
Her goals were even higher, until she tore the ACL in her left knee.
"When it happened, it's like, a lot of question mark," she said. "And you don't know if you'll be able to go back to swim. If you'll ever be able to, like, get back to what you were."
Through months of painful rehab, she was motivated by the dream of racing again and quieting her detractors.
"I definitely had some people telling me, like, 'What makes you think that whatever you couldn't do for the past few years you're gonna do after a year of sitting out from a surgery.' And I really wish I could see their faces," she said.
Then her Israeli teammate Aaron Greenberg gave her one more note of good news. Her injury gave her one more year of eligibility in the United States if she could make it back.
"That's like, oh my God!" she said. "You might actually be able to go back to school and finish what you started, and finish it the way you visualized it."
Now she had a goal and a plan, and just had to reach. Eight months later, she was racing.
"To show and give a statement of, like, 'I'm back and I'm back big!'" she said.
On the road to recovery, she and Aaron had gotten close, becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. When she triumphantly returned to Israel to race, she and Aaron were also teammates in mixed relay. That day, they broke the national record together.
But the joy of standing on the podium was only eclipsed by what happened when they returned to the hotel.
"The whole balcony was decorated with flowers and balloons and my sisters were there and they were playing music, and I'm like 'oh my God!'" Michal said.
"It was really hard to keep it a secret the whole week while I was in Israel with a ring in my pocket. I'm like, 'Don't show her this,'" Aaron said.
"You added more pressure to her!" Overmyer said.
"One hundred percent. I was gonna do it after finals, but then I thought 'You know, I think it could be a good idea if I do it right now,'" Aaron said.
Instead of a distraction, it gave her a shot of adrenaline.
"I did the best time. I won! I mean, what else?" Michal said.
Michal became the Israeli national champion in the 50 fly, and that was the second-best outcome of that day.
"She was telling me for months, 'Oh yeah, I'm totally going see it coming when you end up proposing to me, I mean I already know,'" said Aaron. "It's not even going to be a surprise."
"It's crazy how life happens," said Michal. "One of the things that happened because of my injury was the fact that I met Aaron. I met my future husband."
Michal competed for Stony Brook in the conference championships.
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