Traralgon’s Emily Beecroft is a Paralympic medallist!
As we put the final touches on this piece featuring the 21-year-old swimmer, we heard the amazing news that the Australian 4x100m freestyle relay (34 points) team of superstar Ellie Cole, Isabella Vincent, Ashleigh McConnell and Emily has been awarded silver medals.
With her individual event, the S9 100m freestyle on Day 7, and the 4x100m medley relay (34 points) still to come, we’re optimistic that there’ll be more than one hard-earned accessory hanging from Emily’s neck upon her return from Tokyo.
(*Note: Emily also won a bronze medal in the 4x100m medley relay (34 points), while finishing eighth in her individual event - congrats!)
When penning this article on Emily, we’ve faced a fresh dichotomy as the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games also marked the launch of the #WeThe15 campaign, which is sport’s biggest ever
human rights movement to end discrimination. The aim is “to transform the lives of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities who represent 15% of the global population”.
This is a movement that is publicly campaigning for disability visibility, inclusion and accessibility that everyone can rally behind, and similar initiatives for race, gender and sexual orientation.
An excellent video accompanying the launch of #WeThe15 mocks the tropes of calling people with disabilities ‘superheroes’ or saying how ‘brave’ they are for going about their lives.
But, Emily is unique – she’s an exceptionally fast swimmer.
But, Emily is unique – she’s an exceptionally fast swimmer.
Emily’s entry into swimming is something that many of us can relate to; she saw her sister, Kaylee, join the Traralgon Swimming Club as a 10-year-old and she wanted in too.
While also enjoying athletics and playing netball, Emily decided to focus on swimming, as it was ‘her strongest sport and had the best pathway for people with a disability’.
Legendary swimmer Ellie Cole was the first Paralympian Emily ever knew, and she says, “Growing up, I always aspired to be like her. Now, I get the opportunity to be her teammate and race alongside her, which is very cool.”
Sharing the podium with your hero is freakin’ cool.
The pathway to competing in a Paralympic swimming final is anything but easy. As Emily explains, “I train around 13 times a week. I’m in the pool seven times per week, and I also do seven dry land sessions per week.
“I try to fit in my study for uni in between my training sessions, so I usually find myself quite busy!”
Even with the support of La Trobe University’s Elite Athlete Program (LEAP) to manage her Bachelor of Arts studies, and being a TechnologyOne High Performance Sport Scholarship holder, Emily has had to persist with extraordinary dedication to make it to the starting blocks of the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Again, Emily’s introduction to swimming is very relatable, normal even, as are her studies. But her tenacity to persevere through such rigorous training is remarkable.
When Gippslandia first spoke with Emily, she was in Cairns for the Australian Paralympic Swimming Team’s Pre-Departure Staging Camp. Emily’s excitement to get to Tokyo and launch into her second Paralympic Games was palpable.
We asked her about how she felt after competing in the 2016 Rio Games: “When I started my swimming career, my goal was to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Being selected for the Rio 2016 team was a real surprise to me. I swam very well over in Rio, which meant that I came home with a new fire in me to see what I could do in Tokyo.”
Admittedly, the delay and uncertainty surrounding these Games has had an effect on Emily, but not how you may expect; “To be honest, I have found the year delay to be a blessing. It’s meant that I’ve been able to get stronger, physically and mentally, outside of the pool, and also have an extra couple of months in the pool to get faster. I have tried not to focus too much on all of the uncertainties… I just listen to what information Paralympics Australia and Swimming Australia provide, and focus on my job, which is to be ready to race.”
It’s a level of steely focus that Brian Ford, the Head Coach of Traralgon Swimming Club, has come to admire: “I’m so proud! Emily has come through the Learn To Swim program and worked her way through all the squads, and is now an elite Paralympian.
“She has prepared extremely well and will perform equal to, if not better than, what she did in Rio.”
Just an average Learn To Swim participant, who happens to be tearing up the pool in her second Paralympic Games.
With the news that the Games will be returning to Australia in 2032, we asked Emily what we can all do to make the Brisbane Paralympics the best Games yet.
“It’s so exciting that Australia will play host to the 2032 Games. From competing at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, I know how much of an impact a home crowd can have on your performance and experience.
“I also think by having the Paralympics here, it will really highlight the accessibility needs and equality issues that disabled people are still facing in Australia. It is meant to be the most inclusive and diverse Games yet, so I hope the right amount of organisation [occurs] to ensure that it is.”
Finally, Emily surely must have an overflowing trophy cabinet already, especially given that in her very first competition in 2010 she took home 10 medals. She’s competed in numerous championships and taken home a Victorian Young Athlete of the Year title too.
But, we have an inkling those accolades may come second to the tight relationship Emily shares with her sisters Kaylee and Maddison, who had this to say about their ‘little’ sister, “We are both so proud of Em! As triplets we have such a special bond, she will always be our ‘little one’. We know how hard she has worked to get to the Tokyo Paralympics.
“She has had so many challenges and setbacks through these past few years, but that didn’t stop her. She surprises us every day with what she achieves. Em deserves every moment and we know she will have so much fun over there representing her country. We wish we could be in Tokyo with her, but both of us and the whole family will be cheering her on through the TV!”
Yes, having a disability should mean you can live a ‘normal’ life, but Emily Beecroft is a brilliant local example of what you can achieve if you make the decision to work hard and pursue an exceptional one.