Tammy Cunnington, a Red Deer para-swimmer builds her life around what makes her happy: staying fit and competing in sports. Contributed photo

Red Deer’s Tammy Cunnington eyes trip to 2021 Paralympic Games

“It would be just that last icing on the cake of my journey.”

Last year was supposed to be her swansong.

Tammy Cunnington had dreams of capping off her memorable swimming career in Toyko at the 2020 Paralympics, representing Canada on the sport’s biggest stage.

COVID-19 dashed all those hopes for the Red Deer native, at least temporarily.

“It would be just that last icing on the cake of my journey,” said Cunnington, who represented Canada at the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil and has competed internationally on several other occasions.

“I know how hard I’ve worked at home and even out of the pool. I’ve put in the effort, so if I can still make the team, it would be the icing on the cake for me and a great accomplishment.”

Cunnington has worked as hard as ever since Canada withdrew from the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics last March – even after the event was eventually postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic is still a problem in much of the world and in Canada, but there have been no talks of postponement this year.

With that, Cunnington has her sights firmly set on swimming at the Canadian Trials in Toronto in April.

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Swimming Canada still plans on hosting that event– with a narrowed field and the best of the best in attendance, to pick athletes for the 2021 Paralympic and Olympic Games, which were rescheduled from last summer to August of this year.

Cunnington said her motivation varies from day-to-day, but she still wants to add this one last piece to her puzzle.

“It’s a mental game this whole pandemic. It’s difficult. I have good days where I’m certain I can still make the team and rise above,” said Cunnington, who turned 45 last month.

“I have other days where I feel a little bit defeated. Overall I’m a pretty positive person. I’m just working on the parts that I can control and being adaptive.”

Getting to Toronto or to Tokyo if she qualifies, will be no easy task. But even her experience over the last year has set her up to keep going with the flow.

After the shutdown last spring, she returned to the pool in July until December and feeling good about her training. That was before Alberta made the decision to close down pools as increased restrictions were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Another setback– another obstacle.

“I’ve been working on the hand bike, doing a lot of mobility work and swim simulation exercises with tubing, just to keep the position and technique. Just do all the things I can to get myself as close to ready as I can be when I get back in the water,” she said.

Cunnington is itching to get back in the pool next week if the government deems pools fit to open– if they do, she’ll turn her training into overdrive, so she’s ready for the trials.

She knows it will be hard, but she wants this one last challenge.

“This is my life and I’ve spent five years of blood, sweat and tears and lots of money trying to still finish out and make the team for Toyko,” she said.



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Red Deer's Tammy Cunnington picked up a gold medal in the S4 women's 50 metre backstroke at the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Cairns, Austraila. (Photo Courtesy of Brian Cassey Cairns 2018 Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships/ Swimming Canada)