What started out as rehab for an injury sustained in cross-country running has resulted in Alex Tuckfield competing at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The 16-year-old swimmer from St Patrick’s College, Sutherland, goes into next week’s games as the third fastest 400 metres S9 freestyler in the world, and he has high hopes of a medal.
Born with cerebral palsy, the gutsy Year 11 student is one of the youngest members of the largest Australian Team to compete at a Paralympics overseas, which includes his main competition and fellow Australian Brenden Hall.
“I found it was a sport I could quickly rise up the ranks in, going from school carnivals, to state and then the national team.”
For Alex, competing at the Paralympics has been a dream since he entered the water five years ago as part of his therapy after injuring his foot.
A relative new-comer to the sport, he said from the moment he entered the water he knew that’s where his future lay.
“Swimming is just about all I can think about,” the teenager told Connect.
“I did do cross country running for quite a while and it was due to an injury I received that I got into the pool.
“I found it was a sport I could quickly rise up the ranks in, going from school carnivals, to state and then the national team.
“I have sacrificed a lot to get to Tokyo but looking back, it’s all been worth it.
“It just goes to show how fortunate I am and how mild my condition is, some of the others on the Australian team are in wheelchairs, or can’t move their arms.”
“Competing at the Tokyo Olympics has been a dream for so long and I am just so happy to finally get here.”
Despite his disability resulting in limited strength on his right side, Alex said his school mates were genuinely surprised when he told them he was competing in the Paralympics.
“When I told them most people said they didn’t even know I had a disability,” he said.
“After going to school with them all through primary and high school, some of them had no idea, the only thing that would give anything away was the splint I wear on my leg.”
While humble about his disability, his dedication and hard work should not be underestimated.
Every morning he’s up at 4.30 to hit the pool at 5 and then back after school from 4pm until 6.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication on Alex’s behalf as well as our families.”
Parents Agnes and David said they are both extremely proud of everything Alex has achieved despite his disability.
“We are so very proud of Alex and what he’s achieved, he wouldn’t let anything stop him getting to the Paralympics,” proud mum Agnes said.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication on Alex’s behalf as well as our families.
“We sacrificed a few things like holidays, weekend getaways and even family and friend get togethers, and Alex’s social life has been pretty much non-existent due to his rigorous training schedule.
“We are very saddened that due to COVID we can’t be there in Tokyo to see our Alex swim, it has been such a journey to get him there.
“We have no doubt that Alex will do his absolute best and hopefully make the podium at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. We are already the proudest parents no matter what happens.”
“He has worked so hard for this and we are very proud of his achievements.”
School principal Janine Kenny agreed and said the whole school community would be cheering the Year 11 student on.
“Everyone here at the College is so excited for Alex,” she said.
“He has worked so hard for this and we are very proud of his achievements.
“We are all behind Alex and wish him all the best for the Games.”