Para-swim­mer dreams big

North Shore Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A decade ago, Nia Wal­lace’s life was changed when she was hit by a car driven by a learner driver. She hasn’t let that hold her back.

The now 14-year-old is well through her first year of high school and has been named paraswim­mer of the year at her lo­cal swim­ming club.

Nia’s mum Priscilla Wal­lace said it had been a spe­cial year.

‘‘Nia started at Long Bay Col­lege in Fe­bru­ary. It kind of marked 10 years since Nia’s ac­ci­dent, so it was a lit­tle bit sad, not that we dwell on it. She de­cided then she wanted to get more into swim­ming, so that is the fo­cus or goal,’’ Wal­lace said.

Nia has been swim­ming since she was 7, af­ter her physio sug­gested it as a form of ex­er­cise. She now swims four morn­ings a week with Coast Swim Club.

In Fe­bru­ary 2007, Nia, then 3, was stand­ing by the let­ter­box of her Tor­bay home with friends and fam­ily. They were ex­cited to see a fam­ily friend on her first day de­liv­er­ing the lo­cal pa­per.

‘‘She’d put one in our box and we went out to say ‘hooray’. A teenage boy lost con­trol of his car and be­cause Nia was so young she didn’t know to get out of the way,’’ Wal­lace said.

The 15-year-old learner driver crashed through a gap be­tween a fence and tree and hit Nia.

The tod­dler suf­fered head and in­ter­nal in­juries, un­der­went brain surgery and was in an in­duced coma.

Her long re­cov­ery in­volved weekly ap­point­ments in speech ther­apy, oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy, physio, chi­ro­prac­tors and more.

‘‘My whole week was ap­point­ments,’’ Nia said.

‘‘She has come a very long way,’’ Wal­lace added.

Nia’s name is the first on the Coast Swim Club’s para-swim­mer of the year tro­phy, as this is the first year it’s been awarded.

The teenager has big as­pi­ra­tions and hopes to one day reach the Par­a­lympics. She’s been named a prospect for the team. From there, swim­mers progress to emerg­ing and then podium when they reach the Par­a­lympics.

When asked if she looks up to any swim­mers, Nia is quick to rat­tle sev­eral off: So­phie Pas­coe, Re­becca Dub­ber, Mary Fisher.

Nia loves swim­ming and at­tended a na­tional train­ing camp ear­lier in the year.

She has re­cently been classed as an S7 swim­mer, mean­ing a swim­mer with use of their arms and trunk, but with lim­ited leg func­tion. Nia’s ac­ci­dent af­fects the use of her right leg and she can only kick with her left.

SUP­PLIED

Nia Wal­lace loves to swim and hopes to one day make it to the Par­a­lympics. Her favourite stroke is back­stroke, but it keeps chang­ing.

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