PAIGE Leonhardt’s selection in the Australian Dolphins team for the 2018 Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns is yet another step on the road to Tokyo.
Despite a disrupted lead-up to the selection trials in Adelaide due to a change of coach three weeks before, the Mount Cotton teenager did enough in the recent event.
She will be up in North Queensland when the championships kick off on August 9.
“I’ve made four consecutive teams since Rio so I haven’t missed an opportunity of making a team (although) this one seems a little more different,” Leonhardt said.
“It’s so much fun being able to represent your country and you can only do it so many times.”
The 17-year-old expects the Pan Pacs to be more of a relaxed atmosphere than the previous times she had pulled on the green and gold.
“At the Pan Pacs you don’t have a lot of the European countries and those countries have the top and the elite athletes,” she said.
“We’ve been told 11 countries have been confirmed including Canada and New Zealand.”
The Commonwealth Games silver medallist believed it would still be a high-profile event that enabled her to continue to make small improvements leading up to Tokyo 2020.
“Even if we’re racing against ourselves, it’s still an opportunity to get good rankings on the world rankings list leading into Tokyo,” she said.
“To make four teams in a row shows that I really want it, I’m not prepared to miss a spot on a team and I’m determined to make every team I can.”
Leonhardt said one of the keys to her recent run of success came purely through enjoyment – the teenager doesn’t see swimming as a job.
“I enjoy swimming and I try to keep the fact that swimming is fun and it’s something that I do every day,” she said.
“I wouldn’t get up at four o’clock in the morning if I didn’t want to, I’d stay in bed.”
The opportunity to rub shoulders with teenage paralympian Rowan Crothers meant Leonhardt would reap the rewards.
“(Rowan is) a much faster swimmer than I am so being in a squad with someone like him, and the able-bodies, makes me feel a lot more comfortable,” she said.
“I know I’m doing the hard yards.”
The former Port Macquarie swimmer, who lives at Mount Cotton, knows she cannot get comfortable in her own ability with the bar continually being raised.
“Everyone is dropping their time dramatically and everyone is improving so much which is scary,” she said.
“That makes me want to work harder to be the best.”
This article was first published in the Port Macquarie News.