McConnell is all set for Tokyo
“It’s not always love”. That’s how Australian Paralympian and MSAC Open Squad Member Ashleigh McConnell describes her relationship with swimming. A Gold medallist as part of the Women’s 4 × 100m Freestyle Relay, at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, and a Bronze medallist in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9 at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – […]
“It’s not always love”.
That’s how Australian Paralympian and MSAC Open Squad Member Ashleigh McConnell describes her relationship with swimming.
A Gold medallist as part of the Women’s 4 × 100m Freestyle Relay, at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, and a Bronze medallist in the Women’s 100m Backstroke S9 at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – McConnell is no stranger to success.
Therefore, anyone would’ve thought that the 25-year-old would have been in love with the sport and individual success in Tokyo was the logical next step. But she thinks a new coach in Sebastian Bettiol, Head Coach of the MSAC Squad Programs, helped her rekindle her fondness of the sport, something that had disappeared in 2019.
“Seb has reignited my enjoyment of swimming. In 2019 I wasn’t having the greatest year, and I really didn’t enjoy swimming that much. Seb came along in 2020, brought his whole squad and it definitely changed the environment in which we train in,” said McConnell.
It’s not just a new coach and squad that has helped McConnell, the postponement of the Tokyo Games, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, helped her regain some form with an extra year of training.
“I think the extra year has actually really helped me, because 2020 wasn’t going my way too much, so I think the five years ended up being a good thing for me.”
Although the extra time has been beneficial, the last 18 months of preparation haven’t been easy by any means. Lockdowns and border restrictions resulted in a lack of competition opportunities compared to those in other states, meaning her strict training regime in the pools and Athlete Performance Centre Gym at MSAC were all she had when it came to preparing for Tokyo.
“I train swim sessions eight times a week for about two hours and then three gym sessions for about an hour and a half. The facilities (at MSAC) are so amazing. It’s been really great to have access to MSAC for a lot of athletes through COVID, otherwise a lot of athletes wouldn’t have had the opportunity to train.”
Coach Seb is excited about seeing her compete on the world stage once again and hopes she is rewarded for her hard work over the last 18 months.
“I’m pinching myself that she’s already made the team. First of all she’s got to get into that final which is always competitive. A lot of things have got to go right, you never know how quick everyone else is going to swim, so you sort of say, swim in your own lane. But if a medal was to come off it would be an incredible achievement and a real sort of validation for all the hard work she’s put in over her whole career but in particular the last 18 months,” said Bettiol.
It’s not just success in the pool that propels McConnell, who is an S9 para-athlete but being a role model and furthering the Paralympic movement is just as important.
“The Paralympic movement has definitely come such a long way since I was growing up. There definitely wasn’t very much representation at all of it. But now you see people like Ellie Cole on the cover of Women’s Health (Magazine), you see advertisements featuring Dylan Alcott, you see people everywhere. Every time there’s sport mentioned, you see Paralympic athletes which is just incredible. I hope that I can be one day be one of those people, but right now I feel like just being here and doing my thing kind of does push the Paralympic movement forward.”
You can cheer on Ashleigh in Tokyo when she kicks off her Tokyo campaign on Sunday August 29.
Sun 29 Aug. 9:00 – 11:25
- Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay – 34 Points Heats
Sun 29 Aug. 17:00 – 20:25
- Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay – 34 Points Final
Tue 31 Aug. 9:00 – 11:30
- Women’s 100m Freestyle – S9 Heats
Tue 31 Aug. 17:00 – 20:35
- Women’s 100m Freestyle – S9 Final