9 Sep 2019

Pascoe's desire for medals doesn't let up

2:55 pm on 9 September 2019

At 26-years-old Sophie Pascoe may be considered long in the tooth in swimming terms but her desire for medals is a strong as ever.

This week she will compete at the World Para Swimming Championships in London - the first time she's been back there since winning three gold medals in the 2012 London Paralympics.

"I've got great memories. It was a fast pool, and the crowd and the atmosphere were fantastic. I can't wait to get back and get those feels back from when I was 19," Pascoe said.

She has nine Paralympic gold medals, 12 World Championships gold medals and four Commonwealth Games gold medals.

"I remember how I felt in every race, and how I felt when I finished. I remember how I won each of my medals and I think it's really special that I have a story for every one," she said.

Paralympic success for the likes of swimmer Sophie Pascoe could finally reap the same funding benefits as Olympic athletes.

Paralympic success for the likes of swimmer Sophie Pascoe could finally reap the same funding benefits as Olympic athletes. Photo: Photosport

"It's crazy because my medals aren't actually on show at home, they just sit in a bag - it's terrible. But when I do bring them out they come to life."

The world champs double as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

"The biggest pressure is the pressure I put on myself, but I'll be expecting some big swims from the likes of Ellie Cole and Sarai [Gascon], and there will be new athletes coming in too. "

But they will struggle to beat Pascoe.

At the New Zealand national championships this year, she set four world records.

Her training regime has changed over the years but continues to produce results.

New Zealand para-swimmer Sophie Pascoe.


Ahead of London 2019, she has combined pool practice with activities such as rock climbing, boxing and yoga.

"I'm getting older and every campaign needs to change. I can't be doing the same thing as before. We are changing it up a lot because the body needs to - physically but also mentally. I've been in this sport since I was 11. I'm doing lot of cross training outside of the pool, which I'm really enjoying," she said.

"I'm doing a shorter programme this time and racing in four events: the 200m medley, the 100m backstroke, the 100m freestyle and the 50m freestyle."

Pascoe's first event is the S9 100m freestyle with heats tonight and the final scheduled for 6.30am Tuesday morning.

Three other New Zealand swimmers compete in the opening day - Hamish Mc Lean in the 400m freestyle S6 and Christopher Arbuthnott and Jesse Reynolds the100 m Freestyle S9.

London was only announced as the hosts of the championships in mid-April after Malaysia, which had been due to stage the event in July, was stripped of the hosting rights for refusing to let Israelis compete.

Malaysia, which is a majority Muslim country, banned the athletes because of what Kuala Lumpur sees as Israel's poor treatment of Palestinians.

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons said all world championships "must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination".

In 2017, the Worlds had to be rescheduled just a week before it was due to start in September following an earthquake in Mexico.

When the event took place three months later, Great Britain, along with Australia and Canada, opted not to send a team.

It means this will be the biggest gathering of Para-swimmers since the Rio Paralympics, with a top-two slot in each race securing a spot for countries in Tokyo.

Russia was banned from Paralympic competition in 2016 after details of state-sponsored doping in the McLaren Report.

It meant Russian athletes missed the Rio Games, although some were able to compete at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang as neutral competitors.

In March, the IPC lifted the 29-month suspension, so Russians can participate in certain competitions up until 31 December 2022 - including the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Paralympics - if they have met the specified testing requirements.

The Para-swimming World Championships will be the most high-profile event with Russian participation since the lifting of the ban and they will have a team of 52 competing in London.