For Canada’s Sam Ryan, the experience of competing in the Rio Paralympics has been something of a blur.
Not just in the pool, either.
“I remember back when we were doing the countdown and I was like ‘Oh, there’s 100 days to go,’” the Saskatoon resident said at the Olympic Aquatic Centre, on Monday night. “Then it got down to 50 and 25 and so on. Even though it felt like a really long time, now that I’m looking back, it feels like it went by super fast.”
That feeling transferred into the women’s S10 100M butterfly final. Swimming in lane six, she had to contend with world record holder and defending champion Sophie Pascoe of New Zealand two lanes over.
Pascoe dominated the race, winning with a Paralympic record of 1:02.65. Ryan had a slow start but recovered to finish fifth with a time of 1:09.73, a second behind bronze medalist Oliwia Jablonska of Poland.
However, the most important thing for the 17-year-old was to take in the sights and sounds of a worldwide competition for the first time, particularly prior to the final.
“I wasn’t expecting how it would feel in the ready room,” Ryan said. “I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it’s good to know how everything has happened. I’ll take it and apply it later on down the road.”
When she comes back for Tokyo 2020, the British-born swimmer will be in position to offer support to her new teammates, something she’s been grateful for during her time in Rio.
“The support of my teammates has been everything,” Ryan said. “It’s great to be with some people who are in the same situations as you and it’s been really helpful. When I’m feeling nervous, they know exactly what I need because they’ve been in the same boat.”
Ryan, who immigrated to Flin Flon, Manitoba when she was three, feels the whole experience has been somewhat surreal.
“This experience has been amazing so far,” the Parapan Am 2015 silver medalist said. “I’m definitely feeling the support from all my friends back home and my family here.”
Although with one family member absent, it does mean she can indulge in a favourite sweet when she heads back to Canada.
“I’m going to have some Reese’s Pieces after I’m done racing,” Ryan said. “My sister’s allergic so I can only eat them when I’m away so I’ll probably get some at the airport.”