UPDATE: Ryan qualified for her first Paralympic Games at the April trials and will represent Canada at Rio.
TORONTO – A little girl’s dream is on the verge of becoming a reality after the 2016 Canadian Paralympic swimming trials on Friday night.
At only 16 years-old, Samantha Ryan recorded a time of 1:10.35, the fifth fastest in the world, in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S8-10 Multi-Class.
Even before she started swimming, the Saskatoon native aspired to reach elite athletic status.
“I wasn’t swimming since I was super young,” she said, poolside at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. “But there is this card/craft thing I made in kindergarten that says, ‘What is my goal?’ I said, ‘to go to the Olympics.’
“At that time, I wasn’t even swimming. Pretty much, it’s been my dream my whole life.”
On a night where Ryan had to be at the top of her game, she delivered.
She significantly beat her previous best time of 1:11.03, which earned her a silver medal in the 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games, and she was only .36 seconds away from breaking the women’s S10 100m butterfly Canadian record set by Aurelie Rivard.
Ryan began swimming nationally at the age of 14, but the pressure of swimming for her country does not get to her head as it could for someone so young.
“For me, I swim better under all this pressure,” she said. “It gets me really excited. I feel like it’s the good nerves that I experience during a competition, and I kind of try to use it to my advantage and get excited with it.”
Now she has to manage her Rio expectations as well as she manages her nerves.
Team Canada will not announce who will be swimming for Canada at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio until Sunday. Ryan, however, staked her claim for a spot by beating the minimum qualification time standard (MQS) of 1:12.8, but now she just has to sit and wait.
“I did my race,” she said. “I did everything I could. Now, I just have to wait, so there’s not much anything I can do except wait.”
At the very least, Ryan left everything on the table in an effort to achieve her dream
“I really gave it everything that I had tonight,” she said. “I really hope that it is enough to get me on the team, and it would be an incredible experience, something that I have been working towards. It would just be amazing.”
Follow Andrew Bottomley on Twitter: @Botts89