RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Rising Canadian swim star Abi Tripp was stunned by finishing sixth in the women’s S8 400m freestyle finals at the Paralympic Games.
Even in her wildest dreams, the 15-year-old never expected to progress through the heats in her first Paralympic Games.
“I just wanted to get here, that was the first goal,” said Tripp moments after the biggest race of her life. “To make the final on the very first day, in the 400 freestyle, was very exciting.”
Instead of fearing the size of the event, the mature Tripp embraced everything from the magnitude of the stadium to the thousands of people watching.
“I loved the atmosphere, and it was just amazing to have the chance to compete in this race,” Tripp said.
Although she competed in the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto, she said her previous competitions did not compare to the skill level at the Paralympics.
“This was definitely a faster pace,” said Tripp, still gleaming with delight. “It was great to have the ladies, they were fantastic setting the world record pace there.”
The young phenom didn’t let her nerves get to her before the race, something she says is key to a good performance.
“I was feeling pretty good, I just tried to take it all in really,” Tripp said. “I love the crowd and I love to race, so I just try to feed off that and keep up the positive energy.”
The Kingston, Ont. native said she is grateful for the support of her family and her coach of nine years, Vicki Keith, a former marathon swimmer.
“My parents are up in the stands with my coach and her husband,” Tripp said. “Not many coaches make the trip so it’s great to have her here.”
Tripp, who has cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs, knew how proud her success would make her parents and coach and said this pushed her to excel at the highest level.
“I think they are pretty excited,” said Tripp, trying to hold back her animated smile. “I didn’t think I would make the finals but my coach believed I could.
“It was great to let them have the chance to see my race and it’s really cool to have them up there somewhere,” Tripp said. “I will try and find them later.”