What are your memories of school life at Mount Kelly?
I have really fond memories of my time there. I had such an amazing group of friends and it felt like one big family. All the swimmers were also great and Robin Brew, Director of Swimming, was like a second dad to me. I joined the school when I was 16 because it was too hard fitting in schooling and training, but it was still nerve-wracking. I would never have left home if it wasn’t for swimming but Mount Kelly exceeded all my expectations. I would love to go back!
How did the school aid your sporting career?
The ethos of the school and the culture is very much around supporting you to become world-class athletes. They help you to balance school life and sport, which is a great support. It was the little things that they did that made the big difference to our sporting careers. I can’t thank them enough for the help they gave me, particularly Robin as he prepared me for Beijing.
What do you enjoy most about swimming?
At first I hated the water and I was quite scared of it, but once I learnt to swim I couldn’t get enough of it! I then joined a club aged 11, heard about disability swimming and then went to my first nationals. I won a medal there and got talent spotted and that’s how it all began. I never knew about the Paralympics when I was younger, I didn’t even know my disability was in the Paralympics. Since then, the Paralympics has become much more well known. After London 2012, kids would come up to me and say that they wanted to be a superhero like me, as they had seen me in the Channel 4 Superhuman campaign. This was such a breakthrough.
What was it like to participate in London 2012?
I struggle to put it into words as it was incredible. Just walking out in front of 17,500 people in your home country and feeling like the roof is going to come off because it was so noisy is an unbelievable experience.
I remember my last race and I was gutted, I felt so lucky that it happened in my sporting career.
What has been the highlight of you career so far?
That’s a really hard one as there are so many different highlights. Collecting my MBE the other day was pretty special; getting my gold medal in Rio; my first gold medal at the European championships in 2014 was also a special moment. I always find that one a hard thing to decide!
What are your plans for the future?
I am now transitioning into triathlon, and I still find that really scary because it’s completely outside my comfort zone – so there are challenges ahead!
What advice would you give to future Paralympians?
Don’t be afraid to fail, set yourself good progress goals and enjoy the journey, because it is a long journey to becoming a Paralympian. It doesn’t happen overnight but if you work hard you can achieve anything. Sport changed my life and it turned me into the confident person I am today.
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