Paralympic swimmer Tammy Cunnington finished up her last training swim at the Michener Centre pool in Red Deer Tuesday before heading to Toronto to join Team Canada for final preparations prior to the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Paralympic swimmer Tammy Cunnington finished up her last training swim at the Michener Centre pool in Red Deer Tuesday before heading to Toronto to join Team Canada for final preparations prior to the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Cunnington ready to swim her heart out in Rio

One last length of the Michener Pool and Red Deer’s Tammy Cunnington is off to fulfill a dream.

One last length of the Michener Pool and Red Deer’s Tammy Cunnington is off to fulfill a dream.

The 40-year-old departs today or Toronto for Team Canada’s staging and then it’s on to Rio de Janerio for the Paralympic Games from Sept. 7 to 18.

But for one last time, before the competition of her lifetime, Cunnington swam lengths at the Michener Aquatic Centre with her coach Mandi Smith.

“My goal is to make at least three finals and swim my heart out,” Cunnington said.

“The Olympics and Paralympics are about so much more than medals. I just want to go and see my dreams pan out after all this time.”

She had a cheering section for her last practice in Red Deer as parents, teammates and friends gathered to watch and send Cunnington off in style.

After the practice she waited, posed for photos, signed a few autographs and thanked her supporters.

“It’s exciting to have the support,” said Cunnington. “None of the athletes could have made it to the Olympics and Paralympics (or) could have done it without people backing them.

“It was great to have a really great workout today and then (the supporters) sending me off.”

Cunnington is in four events at the games and will compete in the 50-metre butterfly, freestyle and breaststroke and the 150-metre individual medley. She said the number of events is manageable and she feels she will be able to do her best in each one.

She has a day off between each event, which will allow her time to recover.

At the final preparation in Toronto, Cunnington will get a little more rest as the hardest part of her training is behind her.

“Now we start to see the speeds getting better and it’s exciting to be on my way after all these years of training,” said Cunnington.

Though she said watching the Olympic swimming events is stressful, she said she has watched a bit.

“You feel everybody’s high and everybody’s low with them,” said Cunnington. “I wanted to watch a little bit of the swimming to see the blocks and see the ready room.”

At the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic trials in Toronto in April, Cunnington competed alongside Canada’s Olympic swimming medalists including Penny Oleksiak.

“Penny didn’t qualify for the Pan Am Games and still did this well,” said Cunnington. “Watching what she’s built this year and how I’ve built my year since Pan Ams and hope to culminate it all in Rio.”

Cunnington was struck by an airplane in Ponoka at an airshow in 1982. The incident left her a paraplegic, but she has full use of her right arm, core and shoulders. She is a member of the Red Deer Catalina Swim Club and holds Canadian records in the 50 and 100-metre freestyle and the 50-metre butterfly. She also holds the world record in the 50-metre butterfly.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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