Kirstie Kasko 2

Kasko calm and collected during Paralympic trial

Alberta native knows how to keep her head in the game

TORONTO — For Kirstie Kasko, the music may be different but the song is still the same.

The 23-year-old, who swam four qualifiers this week (100-metre breast and backstrokes, 200-metre free and 200-metre individual medley), has to wait until Sunday for the announcement of the Rio team.

But the Paralympian has experienced these trials before, competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. It was no surprise that her pre-swim routine includes a unique method of relaxation.

“I like to make up songs beforehand,” Kasko said. “Songs about my performance. I just try to stretch and relax.”

Participating in 2012 gave her a sense of self-assurance necessary for competing in the current trials to qualify for the Rio Paralympic Games.

“I never really had confidence growing up,” Kasko said. “(The London Games) helped me gain confidence.”

This new found faith has transitioned with her in the pool. She competed in the 2015 Parapan Am Games, adding four medals to her collection: three silvers (200-metre freestyle, 100-metre backstroke, and 200-metre individual medley) and one bronze (100-metre breaststroke).

Her ability to stay calm amongst the tough competition shows in her upbeat demeanour around the pool.

The Okotoks, Alta. native stepped up to the blocks with sharp concentration but not without a quick dance move to the music playing throughout the Pan Am Aquatic Centre.

That atmosphere may be intense but Kasko keeps herself motivated with a melody.

“The songs inspire me to do what I can do,” Kasko said.

Throughout her swim, the Paralympian keeps her mantras playing on a loop to keep her striving for the top of the podium.

“I keep telling myself: Come on! Come on! You got this!” Kasko said.

Though slightly disappointed with her results throughout the trials, Kasko is the record holder for SB14 classified (intellectual impairment) participants in the 100-metre breaststroke, a record she set in 2014 with a time of 1:25.69.

Moving forward, Kasko hopes that her health does not deter her Paralympic ambitions. In 2014, she had a pacemaker put in and a diagnosis of epilepsy last year.

I really have been just trying to do my best at what I can do in sports,” Kasko said. “Sports have actually helped my health.”

Twitter: @HannahDCarver