Young local swimmer to represent country in Rio

2016-07-27 12:12
Epworth matric pupil Alani Ferreira pauses for a rest while training at the Seals Swimming Club.

Epworth matric pupil Alani Ferreira pauses for a rest while training at the Seals Swimming Club. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - An Epworth matric pupil has been selected as part of the South African Paralympic swimming team, being the only representative from Pietermaritzburg.

Epworth matric pupil Alani Ferreira will be flying to Rio de Janeiro to swim in the Paralympics on August 31, competing in the 100 m backstroke, 100 m butterfly, 200 m individual medley and the 400 m freestyle.

Ferreira, who has a genetic disorder where she has lost her central vision and only has peripheral vision, was selected as the only South African swimmer from Pietermaritzburg.

After years of training and hours spent in the water, Ferreira received the news of her selection on July 19 — her 18th birthday.

“It was the best birthday present ever. I was so excited,” she said.

“It still hasn’t properly sunk in and it all feels like a dream. It will probably hit me when I am behind the block at the pool just before the gun goes off.”

Ferreira said she had been swimming since the age of four and when she saw her older brother competing in galas, she decided that was what she wanted to do too.

“When I was 10, I decided to stop swimming and focus on hockey and tennis but I was diagnosed with the disorder at age 12 and advised to go back to swimming and stop the rest.”

The youngster said now there is not a single day that goes by without her swimming.

“I love it! If I’m stressed it relaxes me and if I cannot swim I get withdrawal symptoms,” she said, laughing.

She said her favourite races were the 100 m breaststroke and the 400 m freestyle.

“I am confident. My goal is to make it to the finals and by 2020, I want to win a medal.”

Ferreira said she felt her biggest competition would be the USA. “They are very strong and very good.”

In April this year, Ferreira said she broke the African swimming records for the 100 m backstroke, 100 m breaststroke and the 100 m individual medley.

When she is not in the pool, Ferreira is either playing the piano or the saxophone while trying to study for finals in between.

“I finish trials a few days before I leave and will miss two of my finals but supplementary exams have been arranged.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; it is now or never and the time is now.”

Epworth marketing head Vicky Crookes said the school “could not be prouder of Alani”.

“She is an inspiration to her peers and has worked tirelessly to reach her goals.”

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

Read more on:    olympic games  |  swimming  |  rio 2016

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