FORMER Traralgon swimmer Ruby Storm will be one of the youngest athletes at the Paralympics.
The 17-year-old is set to make the trip of a lifetime to Tokyo where she will compete in the mixed four by 100 metre freestyle, 100m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 100m backstroke.
As well as Traralgon, the teenager will also proudly fly the Indigenous flag, along with cyclist Amanda Reid, as one of only two athletes with Indigenous heritage.
Having only travelled overseas once before, which incidentally was for the World Para Swimming Championships in London, the youngster was understandably beaming with excitement to be among those taking part in the Paralympics.
“I’m so stoked, when they told me ‘Ruby you’ve made it’, it was so amazing,” she said.
“I’m just excited to see what I can do.”
After moving from Traralgon to the Sunshine Coast last year, Storm has been working overtime to see her Paralympic dream come true.
“It’s been pretty tough,” she said.
“I moved from Traralgon to the Sunshine Coast, training hard and working in a new environment I haven’t worked in before.”
A five event card awaits Storm in Tokyo, something she said she was looking to tackle head on.
“It’s a big program but I like it,” she said.
“I’m approaching it openly, staying cool, positive, not stressing over it.
“You just want to swim as hard as you can.”
The journey to the games has been filled with early morning rises and countless kilometres clocked up in the pool, the majority of which happened at the Ford Swim Centre in Traralgon.
In days gone past while living in Traralgon Storm would be up before dawn six mornings a week for training, go to school and then head back for more training – often not getting home until 9pm.
Those early morning rises must all seem worth it now, although the ‘eat, sleep, swim, repeat’ lifestyle was certainly a far cry from the same Storm who initially had no ambitions of even entering a pool.
“When she was younger she was terrified of water,” mum Fiona told The Express in 2018.
“The only way we could get her to do swimming was when her older sister was having swimming lessons she would watch and then copy, and that’s how she learnt to swim.
“She taught herself to swim when she was seven or eight and we were on holiday and she had a lot of wanting to beat everyone in a race.”
Storm now has the opportunity to beat some of the world’s best in a Paralympic race, and said she would always be grateful to the Traralgon Swimming Club for all they had done for her.
“They definitely helped me learn how to swim and they started my career,” she said.
“Without them I don’t know where I would be at the moment.”
Living with autism has presented challenges for Storm, but now that the Paralympics are here she said it was great that people from all walks of life had the chance to succeed in their chosen sport in front of a national audience.
“It’s cool that the Paralympics has grown, hopefully it keeps on growing to be like the Olympics,” she said.
“I recently tried on the uniform which was quite special.”
Although the games will be played without spectators, Storm said she would be in no doubt as to how much her family and friends would be supporting her back home.
“They will be screaming at the TV – good thing I can’t hear it,” she said laughingly.