Tammy Cunnington has faced her fair share of adversity in life, so the difficult journey to Tokyo has been nothing new.
Thursday, Cunnington was named to Canada’s Paralympic swim team, ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics, which is set to take place in late August.
“I’m really excited. Despite everything, I’ve had a solid year of training and I got to do some different things. So I feel really strong and I know I can be faster by Tokyo,” Cunnington said.
“It’s always such an honour and it means so much to me to wear the maple leaf on my chest, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
The Ponoka native, who trains with the Red Deer Catalina, got the call Thursday that she would get to represent Canada, as she was celebrating her 15th wedding anniversary with her husband Martin.
“It was a good mix of happiness and relief and excitement to finally know,” she said
The 45-year-old, who was paralyzed from the waist down when she was six years old, said the uncertainty of the last few years has been just another incredible challenge she had to overcome.
“I just tried to remain focused on the end goal and not really worry about the steps along the way. Just know that I needed to keep my fitness at a certain level,” she said.
“I had time to work on technique because I wasn’t in the water as much and time to do some base building. I just focused on what I could control and what I could do and tried to ignore the rest until it came to having to look at it.”
When the pandemic hit last March, she was left without a pool to train in and the Paralympics had yet to be postponed. After they were postponed, she was able to get back in the pool and train in anticipation of the Games moving to the summer of 2021.
She has been in and out of the pool over the last year, but mostly in it recently, preparing for the Canadian Olympic Trials, which were slated for May.
Earlier this spring they were pushed back to June and still might not happen because of COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario.
So, Cunnington was forced to submit logs of her training to show she’s improved and also race time trial events in Calgary over the last month, to prove she was ready for Tokyo.
“They were choosing the team based on world championships in 2019 but I had declined that meet… Because I didn’t go to that meet I had to go through an extended selection process,” she said.
“Supplying them with documentation of my training logs, my progress to show my improvement over the last few months and to show what I did when I was out of the water to keep water ready.
“I did two time trials last weekend in Calgary where they were videoed with a certified official. Then submitted those to show (the selection committee) where my time was now and that I was race-ready.”
Those times were close to personal bests, but she hopes to do even better in Tokyo.
“They were just a little bit off my best time. But the last month I had to train in Calgary instead of Red Deer because of the last round of restrictions. I was training with a high-performance exempt group. It added more to my training having to drive to Calgary,” said Cunnington, who also represented Canada at the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.
“I always want to go faster, there’s rarely a time I see on the clock that I’m like ‘oh I couldn’t go faster.’ I always want to go faster.”
The Paralympic Games are slated to take place from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 in Tokyo, Japan.