Sarah Mehain is off to the Summer Paralympics games next month in London.
She grew up swimming as a Nelson Neptune before moving to Vernon.
“My dad remembers my first race with the Nelson Neptune Swim Club, when I was about five years old,” said Mehain, now 17.
“It looked like I was going to drown after swimming only 25 metres. Today I swim up to 5,000 metres in two hours, sometimes swimming two practices a day and I don’t think too much about it.”
She lives with a disability called hemiplegia, which means the right side of her body is weaker than her left.
This has often made it difficult for Mehain, but she has pushed on.
“I love competing,” she said.
“The feeling that you get when you achieve your personal goals makes up for all those times that you spend training instead of hanging out with friends.”
One thing many people might not be aware of is the differences between para swimming and able-bodied swimming.
“Para swimming is a little different than able bodied swimming, where whoever touches the wall first wins,” said Mehain.
“In para swimming each swimmer is classified and the classification determines the points you receive for the time that you swim.”
Mehain has competed at many different events across Canada, including the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic trials in Montreal when she was only 13.
“I was one of the youngest competitors,” she said.
“I remember standing and looking at the race results and I was so close to making finals in every race. I told myself that in four years I would make finals and I would swim the qualifying times.”
Four years later at the 2012 Canadian Olympic and Paralympic trials in that same pool, she qualified in six events and made a national record for S7 women in the 100 metre breast stroke.
There are high expectations for Mehain, and her goal is to make it into the finals for most of her events.
She is also hoping to place in the top five for 100 metre breast stroke.
“I am very fortunate to have this opportunity,” she said.
“I know I will be inspired by other paralympic athletes at the Games who have overcome so much, not only in their sport but also in everyday life.
“By competing as a disabled athlete, I have met so many incredible people. When you train so hard with other athletes you make great friendships that will last a lifetime.”