Long Time, No See

So it’s been a while, huh? I honestly don’t know where to start, my life these past weeks has been hectic to say the least. My last post talked about the day before I traveled, so I guess I’ll start where I left off.

The plane ride over to Dublin went suprisingly well;) We arrived 3 days before the actual competitions started, which gave me some time to get settled. Also, I was there before the competitions started to get classified…

There are classifications between S1-S14. S1 and S10 are for physical disabilitys affecting mobility, S10 being someone who still has very good mobility and a “smaller” disability, and S1 being the opposite. S11-S13 are classifications for visual impairments and S14 is for inttellectual disabilitites.

I had previously been in the class S8, however after being assesed first on a bench and then in the water, and evaluated on my mobility and strength, I recieved an S7 result. Though, this wasn’t confirmed since I was only two points away from being an S8. Therefore, they wanted to watch me compete in order to make their final decision. Talk about added pressure. Not only did I have to make my first, big international championship debut at the age of 15, but I now had to do it conscious to the fact that two people were watching me like a hawk, evaluating my every move, and had the power to change the future of my career as an athlete, drastically.

After my initial classification I had two more days until competitions started. These were two days of constant, nervous nail biting and several breakdowns. I was nauseous for more than 48 hours straight and just couldn’t stop crying. To say that I was an emotional, nervous wreck would be an understatement. One of the two days, we also decided to take a day trip into Dublin on one of those hop-on hop-off buses, which was surprinisgly fun and interesting conscidering I’ve never really enjoyed doing typical, tourist-y things.

The day came and it was time for competition day 1. I remember on the bus ride to the arena texting my mum and dad saying I was going to be sick. I have never been that nervous before in my life. We arrive at the arena and despite me feeling sick to my stomache with nervousity, seeing all the countrys and everybodys supporting families having flown in and seeing everybody waving their flags, I felt the first pinch of excitement. I’d made it here, I’d qualififed. I remember thinking not only do I deserve to be here, but I belong here. My first race was 50m butterfly and it was an “immediate final”. The finals are always much bigger and more intense than the morning sessions. The atmosphere was like no other competition I’d been to. It was bigger and I knew this was for real.

The race (I’m on lane 2)

My time wasn’t as good as I hoped to say the least, being almost 2 seconds over my personal best… oops. Going into the cool down pool I felt really disappointed in myself and didn’t really want to talk to anyone from my team. I was so embarrassed. However, one of the coaches on our team caught me and told me I had made it to 3 place. WHAT!? I probably just gawked at him like an idiot, and this is most likely a very clichéed thing to say, but I actually couldn’t believe it. But very well it was true. I took a bronze medal in my first ever race in my first ever big championship. Way to kick off the competitions!

Now there was only a tiny little hiccup… If I were to go back up to S8, I would not be allowed to keep the medal because I’d have earned it in the wrong class, which is fair. Though this made it so I didnt allow myself to be happy about the bronze because I didn’t think I would stay as an S7. However day 2 came around and it was time for my 200m Individual Medley. Believe it or not, but I was even more nervous for this race because a) I HATE medley and b)  this would be the race where my so called “classifiers” would be watching and assesing me. So after my medley I would find out if I got to stay as an S7.

The race itself went really well and I beat my personal best. After the race which was again in the evening session, me and my coach stayed back til the very end of the competition day, waiting for a little piece of paper to come up on a board. A piece of paper that would determine my success in my sport. So we sit and we wait, and wait and then finally, a woman, completely oblivious to the significance of the paper she was ordered to put up on the board, entered the room. I looked to my coach and said that I didn’t want to look at it, my hands covering my face. Rocket scientist that he is he answered that yes, indeed, I do. I roll up to the board and I see “S7” but I keep looking for another answer because this can’t be right. Also, my social anxiety tells me that I probably shouldn’t get excited because you’ll have read it wrong and make a complete moron out of yourself. Looking up at my coach I see he has a similar expression to mine. “S7” I say and we both smile like idiots.

The rest of the competitions go brilliantly and I beat my personal best in everything I swim as well as get another bronze(!!!) in the 100m backstroke, my favorite. Overall I had a really good debut and I had a lot of fun. Also my family flew over and my aunt and cousin came to Dublin from England and seeing them was so great.

Being an S7 was weird adjusting to, but now I have qualified to the world championships in Malaysia next year and it feels so amazing.

Who knew being more crippled than anticipated could be so rewarding?;)

Until next time //Nicola


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