Australian Dolphin Katja Dedekind believes she has come back stronger than ever after returning to the pool with her fellow teammates earlier this year.
The 19-year-old para swimmer participated in the team’s national training camp which took place at her home base – University of Sunshine Coast (USC).
"This is the first camp we’ve had since February 2019 (due to the global pandemic), so it’s good to just have the team back together,” Dedekind said.
"During the lockdown in Queensland, I was swimming in Palm Tree Beach, doing uni online and then going for some form of exercise in the afternoon.
"It’s been very different to what you’d normally find, and it’s crazy to think that we were doing that and now we’re almost back to normal.
"But obviously that can change so quickly, so I’m very grateful that we’re able to train here the way we are, and how we do."
With just the one Paralympic Games under her belt so far, Dedekind took the news of the Tokyo games being postponed as bittersweet. Regardless, she wasted no time in 2020 restoring herself in time for the new year by taking a fresh approach to balancing the different aspects of her life.
"I’m conflicted about having the games postponed," she added. "I’m grateful and I’m also kind of sad about it.
"It gave me a lot of time to get my health issues under control, and I’m a lot healthier now because of it, and I can definitely perform a lot better – which I have.
"I mean, (at) short-course nationals, I broke four world records and did personal bests in every single event, and I’m really chuffed with all of that.
"I’ve kind of now live with the mentality of ‘live every day as your last’.
"Even though I’m a full-time athlete, I’m still living my life outside of that; being social, doing little things that are quite enjoyable, and I can see an improvement in myself, and my swimming.
"I’m just living my life as an athlete, and as a person. Even though that sounds a bit silly, that’s helping my training a lot."
Dedekind now sets her sights on her 2021 campaign, headlined by the Tokyo Paralympics later this year. She is aiming to reach her second Games after a stunning debut at Rio 2016 where she claimed a bronze medal in the 100m backstroke (S13). She's hoping to match that effort again and raise the bar even higher in her hunt for a Paralympic gold medal.
"I feel like, with the preparation happening this year – now that I’m healthier, fitter – that it’s going to be a much better preparation for trials and then the Games in August (and) September,” she said.
"I went to Rio, I podiumed in the 100 backstroke, I got a bronze. I’d really love to podium again.
"Everyone wants to be a gold medallist – a Paralympic champion – and I just want to do that and make it realistic."
The 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games take place from 24 August until 5 September.