“I just had a dream” – that’s how it all started for St Hilda para-swimmer Madeleine McTernan.
At just 18-years-old, McTernan will pull on an Australian gold cap for the first time in September, marking a special and long-awaited moment for the rising star of the pool.
McTernan performed exceptionally well at both the Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming and Age Championships in April, earning a spot on the national team to compete at the World Para Swimming Championships in London, as well as claiming an astounding eight gold medals, respectively.
In a recent feature titled ‘The Next Addition’, which has been produced and created by cinematographer Phoebe Green, the short film highlights McTernan’s ambition in the pool while also explaining her personal views on overcoming her disability.
With a determined glint in her eye, the emerging athlete explained how her swimming journey changed course four years ago, when she and her coach discovered that a professional career could be possible.
“In late 2014 my coach decided to increase my training,” McTernan said.
“Not long after that I did a competition in November and realised that my times dropped really quickly – that’s when I realised, I could do something here.”
Now training nine times a week from Monday through to Saturday, McTernan dives in the water six days a week and clocks up a whopping 18 hours in the pool. While this might seem like a lot of time in the water, swimming provides a release for McTernan as she can solely concentrate on the job at hand.
“I feel really good when I swim, I don’t have the stresses of school and home to bother me, so I just focus on what I’m doing in the pool and then all that stuff from school and home just goes away,” she said.
Classified as an S14 swimmer, McTernan describes what that signifies and how it impacts her swimming.
“S14 means intellectual disability which means you have to have an IQ of 75 or under. On top of that I’ve also got autism and ADHD,” McTernan said.
“It does affect my swimming in a way, like my reaction times off the blocks are a lot slower than other swimmers and then trying to learn other technique, it takes me a lot longer than other swimmers, but I have just learnt to live with it and accept it that that’s who I am, and I’ve just got to keep going.”
With an inspiring attitude, the Australian Age Champ has a positive message for those following their dreams.
“Don’t let your disability stop you from what you want to do. They always say get rid of the ‘dis’ and you’ll always have ‘ability’ in there, so as long as you believe in yourself that you can do it you can be just as good as anyone else tries.
With World Championships edging closer, and a Para Grand Prix in June, McTernan is also looking ahead to future goals – including making her Olympic debut in 2020.
“I guess it’s really the dream to go to Tokyo and it’s what motivates me,” she said.