Paige Leonhardt wins gold in 100-metre breast stroke at Para Pan Pacific Games in Cairns

Winning feeling: Paige Leonhardt with her gold medal. Photo: Supplied
Winning feeling: Paige Leonhardt with her gold medal. Photo: Supplied

A CHANGE of preparation might have been just what Paige Leonhardt needed to claim her first gold medal.

Leonhardt rolled the dice when she changed her coach in the lead up to the Para Pan Pacific Games and the result was the best of all – a gold medal on August 9.

Not only did the former Port Macquarie swimmer change her coach, she changed her stroke and it proved a masterstroke as she touched the wall first in the 100-metre breast stroke in Cairns.

It could prove to be a changing of the guard as Leonhardt proved too fast for Madeleine Scott, beating her rival by two seconds on the first night of action.

“The gold medal felt pretty special,” Leonhardt said.

“Winning it over Madi Scott was a highlight for me because when I first made my first team at the Rio Paralympics I was chasing Madi.

“She got fourth and I got sixth then, so two years later to come out and beat her when I had to be the one to chase her I think was a massive achievement.”

The Carmel College student admitted the adjustment to her technique was a major risk, but one she was willing to make in pursuit of a gold medal.

“It freaked me out because changing your technique in a stroke before a competition is a major risk, but I pulled everything out and our race plan worked,” she said.

“It’s one of those strokes where if you don’t train it for a couple of days you really lose the momentum and the strength that comes with it.”

A different scenario faced Leonhardt throughout the race – she was the one setting the pace.

“I personally found it very difficult because when I was younger I used to PB and do good times when I was chasing someone,” she said.

“I’m always used to pacing myself against someone where I’m in the back field and having to chase.

“I guess the tables have kind of turned because everyone’s chasing me and I’ve got to be in the lead.

“I always have in my head if I’m in front I don’t want to back off; if you’re leading you don’t want to come second when you’ve been leading the whole way.”

The teenager admitted she didn’t have time to look around to see how much of a lead she had.

“It was quite a shock; I was pleased with myself and to have that strong of a lead I didn’t have anyone to chase so I knew it was just myself and the clock,” she said.

“It was just put your head down and go for the wall.”

Throughout the five-day tournament, Leonhardt won three gold, one silver and one bronze medal.

Leonhardt will next represent Australia in Tokyo at the Japan Para Championships held from September 22-24.