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Anthony • 15 mins
By Bridget Hicks (PSG Staff)
Taking advice and competing against Paralympians has been a huge highlight for the young multi class swimmers in the pool this week at the 2017 Pacific School Games in Adelaide.
Representatives from last year’s Games in Rio including Paige Leonhardt, Maddie Elliott, Tim Hodge, Jenna Jones and Liam Bekric came together to share their sporting journeys with the junior athletes.
Paige, a student at Queensland’s Carmel College and S10 para athlete, spoke about the challenges of preparing in an environment with mostly able-bodied swimmers in a seminar at the University of Adelaide.
“Through a lot of hard work and a lot of training, figuring out who I was as a person but also as an athlete, it basically went from multi class swimming to being an elite para athlete,” Paige said.
“You don’t necessarily need to have a multi class or a para program when you’re training.
“If you have the attitude that you’re a multi class swimmer, you’re different from everybody else and you need a multi class program, I think you need to change your mind set a little bit.
“For me, being able to train with able bodies, it pushes me and it makes my mind set know that hey, I might be disabled but these abilities I have, they can push me if I’m surrounded in an environment that’s not strictly ‘I can or can’t do this’.
“We just all get in and we do it together and we push it out.”
Speaking at her first Pacific School Games, Paige said that she is enjoying getting to know the next crop of multi class swimmers.
“I think for the young ones, it’s a good chance to introduce myself and let them know that no dream is too big or too high,” Paige said.
Lucinda Foley, a 13-year-old competing for Western Australia, was motivated by the stories she heard.
“It was inspiring to know that it’s possible… and you can get there (the Paralympics),” Lucinda said.
“They’ve had their really high points, as well as some ups and downs, and you’ve just got to get through them.”
Lucinda doesn’t often get the chance to compete against other female multi class swimmers her own age, so has relished the opportunity and enjoyed being part of a large team in Adelaide.
“It’s been really different his week because I’m used to jumping in a lane with other multi class boys,” she said.
“When you swim by yourself, it’s not as real as swimming with other girls.
“The team atmosphere is really cool, we all support one another as a big team, so it’s been really nice.”
Paige finished with a simple piece of advice for the aspiring para athletes.
“Anything is possible if you have the right mindset,” she said.