Beecroft makes a beeline for gold

La Trobe Elite Athlete Program (LEAP) member Emily Beecroft is confident her previous experiences at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will hold her in good stead for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Beecroft, a Bachelor of Arts student at La Trobe University, is part of the Australian Paralympic Swim Team which will go for gold in Tokyo from Tuesday 24 August.

Born with several impairments including a right radial limb deficiency, Beecroft announced herself as a rising star of Australian para-swimming after competing in three finals at the tender age of 16 and narrowly missing out on the bronze medal in the 50m Freestyle S9 in Rio.

Now 21-years-old and on the brink of becoming a two-time Paralympian, Beecroft says she is ready to take the next step and secure a podium finish at the Paralympics.

“Competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games has always been my goal ever since I started swimming,” Beecroft said.

“I feel like by being able to compete at these Games, a life goal of mine has been ticked off. My goals at the Tokyo Paralympics Games are just to put together the best possible races I can, to take it all in and have heaps of fun. A medal along the way would be nice too…

“My performances in Rio were amazing - I couldn’t have asked to do any better at my debut Paralympic Games. I feel a lot more mature and experienced now, so hopefully that means I will be able to perform even better at these Games. I am lucky enough to have been selected for two of our relay teams which are in medal contention, so I am looking forward to racing in those and seeing what my team can bring to the pool.”

Beecroft grew up in the regional Victorian town of Traralgon (where she still lives) and took up swimming with her twin sisters, Maddison and Kaylee, at a young age.

While initially it was her sister Kaylee that provided the stimulus for her to first get into swimming, it wasn’t long before Emily’s feats in the pool resulted in her becoming the inspiration for others.

“Growing up I wanted to do everything that my sisters did, so when my sister Kaylee joined our local swim club when we were 10 years old, I soon followed her and my swimming career started from there,” Beecroft explained.

“I was the only para swimmer in my region for a number of years. This meant that if I wanted to compete against other para swimmers, I would have to travel all the way down to Melbourne.

“But as my swimming career picked up, more and more para swimmers joined their local swim clubs. Soon enough, there were many new and upcoming para swimmers in our local competitions.

“I feel a sense of pride that through my swimming, I have encouraged other disabled people to get into swimming and fall in love with it as much as I have.”

While her swimming career has grown, Beecroft has been working equally as hard out of the pool studying a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe.

Beecroft says the support and flexibility provided by the LEAP program to student athletes has helped her excel in both her sporting and academic pursuits and was one of the main reasons why she chose to study at La Trobe.

“The La Trobe Elite Athlete Program has been really beneficial to me whilst I have been studying,” Beecroft said.

“Being a student athlete can be difficult. It encourages you to have very good time management skills. Fitting in classes, work and assignments in between training, travelling and competitions is the main challenge. The LEAP program has been very valuable in helping me make timetable adjustments or helping me with any extensions that I may need.

“It has really helped me stay on top of my study, and their (La Trobe’s) support has helped me excel in both my sport and studies during my time at university.”

Beecroft is also a TechnologyOne High Performance Sport Scholarship holder, which has been established to support high performance athletes at La Trobe succeed in their sporting and academic pursuits.

The Australian Paralympic Swim Team is currently based in Cairns at a training camp ahead of their departure to Japan on Thursday. Beecroft says the lockdown and border restrictions currently in place in Australia have presented their own unique challenges, but will not be distracting her or the Australian team in their pursuit of gold.

“I have been away from home for over a month now, as we have been trying to avoid all of the COVID restrictions and lockdowns,” Beecroft says.

“We are in a quarantine-type situation, as we are trying to keep everyone safe and healthy before we depart for Tokyo. We are all training very hard and making sure that we have the best preparation before we head to the Games.

“I cannot wait to get over there!”

Stay tuned to La Trobe Sport’s Facebook and Instagram pages in the coming weeks for the latest news on our Tokyo-bound athletes.

For more information on the La Trobe Elite Athlete Program, head to the La Trobe Sport website.