Flashback: Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games
Swimmer Megan Grant tells her story
At only 23 years of age, swimmer Megan Grant walked side by side with her fellow athletes as they greeted a large stadium full of supporters at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Paralympic Games in 2000. The memory ‘feels like a dream’ to Megan now, who works as a MetroAccess Project Officer for Kingston City Council supporting communities in developing ways of including people with a disability in their communities.
Growing up with a backyard pool instilled Megan, who is legally blind and was born profoundly deaf, with a strong love of water – this passion was what led her eventually into competitive swimming.
“I have lots of memories swimming in the pool with my family and friends,” recounts Megan. “During winter, I spent a fair bit of time swimming at the local indoor pools, and my grandparents lived in Carrum and had direct access to the beach. I spent a fair amount of my early childhood in the water.”
In the later years of primary school, Megan was starting to show a lot of promise in the water, but was still swimming for the joy of it rather than taking it too seriously.
“I tried out squad swimming with my best friend in Grade 5 and we trained together once a week with Ian Pope (an Olympic swimming coach) at the Box Hill pool for just a few months,” she says.
“Then in Grade 6 I reached State Primary School Championships with no training and finished 7th in the state for my age group.”
All of Megan’s life, her eyesight had been slowly deteriorating. By the time she was in her late teens, Megan knew she would soon qualify to compete in the S13 classification in the Paralympics.
“In Paralympic sport, there are 3 different classification for athletes with blind/low vision,” explains Megan. “S11 is for those with no vision and you must compete with blacked out goggles, while S12 and S13 are for those with more sight, but classified as legally blind.”
“It was because of my love for the water and training that I was training each week. I had no aspirations to compete at an international level.”
Despite this, Megan, with the encouragement of her coach at Melbourne Vicentre Swimming Club, made the Paralympic swim team after only three years of training. To get race-ready Megan trained in the pool around 10 times a week, averaging 6kms per session.
“I did dryland training on top of this,” says Megan. “I also had to compete many weekends to get me ‘race fit’ and to qualify, I had to compete at the Australian Swimming Championships and swim times that ranked me in the top 3 in my class.
“With regards to my deafness, I relied heavily on the coach to write down the sets on the whiteboard. The coach knew that I needed to be able to see her if she was speaking.
“As I have no peripheral vision, I relied heavily on the black line at the bottom of the pool.”
Finishing fifth in the 100m breaststroke and sixth in the 200m individual medley, Megan looks back on her memories of the Paralympic Games with fondness.
“It was quite daunting but at the same time, a wonderful experience to be involved at the Paralympic Games and to represent my country,” she says. “It was my first major international event so everything was new to me.”
Now 37 years old, Megan lives in Mentone, Victoria, and has taken up swimming again after a fewyears out of the water.
“I swam at the Deaflympic Games in Melbourne 2005 as the captain of the women’s swim team,” she says. “I then took a break for a few years because it was getting too hard to train – I was just finishing my university studies and beginning my work career.
“Then my work entered the Corporate Triathlon and organised weekly swimming sessions to prepare us for the triathlon and it was then when my love for swimming returned. I am now training 2-3 times a week with an adult squad and regularly compete in open water events during the warmer months and do quite well at these.
“Out in the open water I have to ensure that I am able to see the buoys to make sure that I can see them every few strokes. And I follow the other swimmers!”