Alice Tai is a world champion swimmer preparing for the biggest competition of her life, Rio 2016 Paralympics. Here’s how a local girl who started swimming with the Seagulls Swim Club at New Milton Health and Leisure managed to make her dreams come true.
I was born with severe deformities of my lower legs. I have no movement through my ankle joints and the bones in my feet are fused. I have also recently been diagnosed with a muscle wasting disease.
Aged 8 years
I first started swimming to aid my recovery during surgeries and joined Seagulls Swimming Club at New Milton Health and Leisure. It was here that I really started to shine.
Aged 9 years
Despite my disability I qualified for my first County Championships based on times for able bodied swimmers.
Aged 12 years
September 2010 I was categorised as a disabled swimmer and instantly identified as a medal prospect for Rio. At the time this amused my parents and I, as we thought it was the most ridiculous comment we had ever heard.
By the age of 12 I had endured 14 operations to help me walk. As time ticked by I began to move through the ranks of disability swimming. I joined Bournemouth Collegiate School where my coaches, Adam Parfitt and Zoe Baker, could create a flexible timetable around my studies.
Aged 14 years
Set the first of 15, S10 British records.
Aged 15 years
In August 2014 I made my international debut for GB at the IPC European Championship in Eindhoven. I was the youngest member of the team, returning home with a bronze (400m freestyle), silver (100m back) and gold in the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay. My success made me more determined than ever before to qualify for Rio.
Aged 16 years
I set 2 European records and was ranked second in the world for my main events (100m backstroke and 100m butterfly). The once ridiculous idea now seemed like a realistic target.
I competed in the IPC World Championships, held in Glasgow in July, where I gained 2 individual bronze medals and a bronze and gold in the women’s medley and freestyle relays. It was the most incredible feeling to be on the podium looking at all the Union Jacks listening to the National Anthem.
Aged 17 years – Present
April of this year saw me back in Glasgow to compete for my place on the GB team for Rio. I am delighted to say that I qualified! I still can’t believe that I am going, as this is a journey that began back in 2011 when I was first classified and identified as a ‘Talented Athlete’.
I currently hold 15 S10 British records, 2 European records and I am ranked 2nd in the world for my two main events. The initial Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme (HTAS) funding has been crucial in enabling me to compete at the highest levels; I have also recently been awarded Hampshire & Isle of Wight Sports Awards Junior Disability sportsperson of the year.
Bring on Rio 2016!