RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – As she approached the blocks for her final race in Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Tess Routliffe remembered what she had been told by her coach.
Mike Thompson wanted her to have fun.
“He told me to see what I could do,” Routliffe said following the women’s 100M S7 freestyle final on Friday night. “I did the best I could, I think.”
Routliffe’s time of 1:13.97 was good enough for sixth in the race, well behind the 1:09.99 of gold medallist McKenzie Coan from the United States, but she’s happy with how she did compared to the faster swimmers in the final.
“The girls went really fast in that race so I don’t think I could have asked for much more right now,” the 17-year-old said.
A sixth place finish won’t dampen a successful Paralympics debut for the Caledon, Ont. resident. She made five individual finals at the Rio games, and won her first medal, a silver in the Women’s 200M S7 individual medley on Tuesday night.
“I’m very happy with how this whole week went,” Routliffe said. “I’ve learned a lot and I’ve learned to love the sport even more. I didn’t know that was possible.”
“I just love the whole experience of it all and I’m looking forward to doing it again when I try to go for Tokyo.”
With her strong showing in Rio, it seems almost certain the New Zealand-born swimmer will be called on to represent Canada again in four years.
Routliffe will rely on the support of the people around her to get there.
“The support of swimming Canada, all the coaches, all the athletes, everyone around me pushes me to go harder,” she said. “They make me have fun which is so important for me in races.”
Now that her Paralympic competition is complete, Routliffe can do something she hasn’t been able to do very often – watch her teammates compete.
“I’m so excited I get to watch the 4 X 100M individual medley,” she said. “I haven’t gotten to watch a lot since I’ve been doing so many events but I’m really excited and I’m really hoping they do well.”