Canada’s Tammy Cunnington earns bronze in Parapan...
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Aug 09, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Canada’s Tammy Cunnington earns bronze in Parapan Am Games swimming

Team Canada won seven medals at Saturday’s competition. And Cunnington has four more chances for medals at these Games, racing in the 200-metre freestyle and the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly in 50 metres


Tammy Cunnington is adjusting, again.

Less than a year since her first swim meet in December, the 39-year-old was on the Parapan Am Games podium Saturday.

She won bronze in the women’s 100-metre freestyle S4 on the opening day of the swimming competition.

With that medal under her belt, Cunnington is setting her sights on the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

“I knew there were going to be swimmers here that were faster than me,” she said after losing her second race in the 50-metre freestyle. “My goal was at least to let them know I have a year and I’m coming for them.”

Originally, Cunnington planned to make the Rio Games in the triathlon but her class was eliminated, forcing her to find a new event.

And it’s not the first time she’s changed course.

As a little girl in her hometown of Ponoka, Alta., Cunnington was volunteering at an airshow with her figure skating club when the unthinkable happened.

Two planes collided, sending a propeller flying through the air. It struck six-year-old Cunnington, who was paralyzed in the accident.

She began using a wheelchair and, with full use of her right arm, shoulders and core, began taking part in sports again. By 8, she was playing wheelchair basketball and she went on to play for a decade.

“She’s adapted very well, she does so many things,” her mother, Linda Cunnington, said. “I’m really, really proud of her.”

Cunnington joined the national swim team last March and immediately got to work improving her form, shaving seconds off her time.

“She’s new in the sense that she’s new to our squad, but she’s a veteran athlete,” Canadian Paralympic swim coach Craig McCord told the Star.

She was in condition and committed, but she was used to swimming for an hour, not 57 seconds.

“It was hard,” Cunnington said of the transition. “It’s a whole different energy system to sprint a 50 than it was to swim 750 metres or two kilometres like I did in a half-Iron Man. In (triathlon), and endurance, you’re always building. Now it’s like, you’re going.”

Getting her heart into the race is one thing, her head was another.

At that first meet she didn’t know when to get in the water, when to take her mark or what each whistle meant.

“Now I’m ready to go each time I get on the block,” she said. “The whole process is more familiar and I’m able to start getting really good times.”

The good times were rolling Saturday. From the morning heat to the medal race, she shaved almost two seconds off her 100-metre time. The heat time was about seven seconds under her previous personal best.

“I did so well this morning I was a little worried about bettering it,” she said after winning bronze. “But I stuck to the game plan and hit the acceleration at the right time and got to the wall.”

Team Canada won seven medals at Saturday’s competition, including one gold, four silvers and two bronze.

Cunnington has four more chances for medals at these Games, racing in the 200-metre freestyle and the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly in 50 metres.

“She’s very determined. She’s a hard worker. She sets her goals and sets them high,” her mother said. “I guess that’s what keeps someone like that going. Well that’s the way with every one of us — if you don’t have a little bit of determination.”

Toronto Star

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