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Golden para-swimmer Mary Fisher unsure of Tokyo 2020

by ZwemZa on April 23rd, 2018

PHOTOSPORT
New Zealand’s Mary Fisher celebrates with her gold medal from the women’s 100m backstroke S11 final at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

New Zealand’s Mary Fisher celebrates with her gold medal from the women’s 100m backstroke S11 final at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

After winning gold at the Rio Paralympics, Mary Fisher thinks she might have pushed swimming as far as she can.

With Tokyo 2020 coming up, Fisher is fielding questions daily about whether or not she will compete.

And right now, she’s ambivalent.

“I’m not sure I want it enough – it’s a bit daunting after being the primary thing in your life for so long,” Fisher said.

“To do well and be selected, it has be your number one priority. You have to really want it and have your heart it in 100 per cent.

“For a long time main thing I wanted in my life was to go faster up and down a pool – that’s not what I’m feeling right now.”

While Fisher (25) still trains in the pool six days a week, she is ready for new challenges.

Fisher has long-term plans to set up a Wellington squad for young para swimmers, where they can still swim with their local clubs but will have the opportunity to connect with others.

“In terms of still being engaged with the swimming community, for me coaching is top of the list.

“When I was starting out with swimming lessons and as a teenager – it would’ve been nice to have that kind of local group in Wellington.

“I think it will also be good for coaches, for whom this might be the first time they are interacting with a person with a disability.

Mary Fisher powers through the butterfly leg of the 200m individual medley SM11 final at the Rio Paralympics.

GETTY IMAGES

Mary Fisher powers through the butterfly leg of the 200m individual medley SM11 final at the Rio Paralympics.

“We want to create a place where everyone loves the water. That’s the main goal.”

Fisher said without her community she never would have made it to London for the 2012 Olympics.

“Hundreds of people helped me for this individual sport which is really a team sport. It was so satisfying to realise that I could work hard and it wasn’t a fluke.”

The 2016 Olympics in Rio were a different experience for Fisher.

Despite setting a world record and winning gold in one race, Fisher said she came home quite disappointed.

“There’s so many people wanting to know how you feel and you can’t describe it in a minute of talking to someone,” she said.

“You have to just say ‘it went well’. And it did overall, but there was quite a lot to process.”

After the intensity of the Rio Games, Fisher was sick of swimming.

“Last year was more about finding why I enjoyed swimming again. I was finding my swimming feet and eventually got back in the pool.”

Aside from a break after Rio, Fisher has been swimming competitively for 16 years.

“When I was nine and did my very first race I had these inklings of the pathway that you could get to as an elite sportsperson.

“My dream was being selected for the Paralympic games. I kept it quiet as it was pretty massive, as a goal.”

Fisher, who has won five Paralympic medals, including a gold, was born with a congenital condition that saw her lose her sight in her teens.

“I could take a lot of my frustration and anger out in my training. Feeling competent in something was huge, I didn’t have to go back to step zero like I did with most other things.

“I think sport can be like that for a lot of people, whether you have a disability or not.

Mary Fisher says she would like to move into coaching.

GETTY IMAGES

Mary Fisher says she would like to move into coaching.

Everyone is has something that they’re working through.”

Swimming became a safe space for her and the one place she felt completely independent.

“When I was swimming, all those assumptions people have when they see you with a mobility aid are gone.”

Fisher was heartened by the New Zealand swimmers represented at the Commonwealth Games this month.

Despite the Games having para events integrated within the regular events, there were no swimming events for vision-impaired athletes like Fisher.

“If they had had an event, I would have been zooming, training – it would have been amazing, I would have been so excited to go and race.

“It was a little bit disappointing at the start but I knew it was kind of unlikely. The host country chooses the para events they include.”

She was excited when 18-year-old Wellington swimmer Lewis Clareburt won bronze in the men’s 400m individual medley on the Gold Coast.

“I still think of him as this skinny 9-year-old kid who is so much smaller than all the others,” Fisher said.

“It makes me feel a little bit like how I was just before London, he’s just had this big breakthrough.

“I was so excited but it made me feel quite old – slightly reminiscing of my own journey

“It’s neat to have been in swimming so long to see that circular change.”

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