Beecroft realises Paralympics dream

For Emily Beecroft, all she thinks about while she’s in the pool is swimming the fastest time she possibly can.

Competing in her second Paralympic Games, Emily Beecroft continued her rise as one of Australia’s most impressive up-and-coming para-swimmers with two podium finishes in Tokyo. The 21-year-old claimed silver as part of the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (34 points) team that finished second behind Italy, before claiming a bronze medal with the Australian team that finished third in the Women’s 4x100m Medley relay (34 points) final.

What made Tokyo even more special for the TechnologyOne High Performance Sport Scholarship holder was that it was the goal she had dreamed of achieving since she was young. But her talent and hard work meant that dream was bought forward to 2016, when the then 16-year-old Beecroft exceeded her own expectations to make the Australian Paralympic team for the Rio Paralympics.

Heading into her second Paralympics campaign this time around with relay experience under her belt, it’s no wonder Beecroft was most excited about the Tokyo Games. That excitement radiated through her performances, as she recorded career-best results.

“It was crazy, I didn’t know what to expect going into the relays,” Beecroft said.

“Para-relays are a lot more difficult to know what’s going to happen with the different classes and different points.

“I’ve never had an individual medal experience, but getting my first ever Paralympic medal in a relay I think was really nice to be able to stand alongside my teammates as well. It is definitely a moment I’ll never forget.”

Although the lead-up to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games had been tough for all athletes around the globe, Beecroft’s lead-up to the Games was a wild one. As the pandemic threatened to close swimming pools and restrict movement in Victoria, Beecroft was forced to race across interstate borders to keep up with her training routine.

She spent three weeks in Sydney before being able to fly over to Adelaide and compete in swimming trials, until she was on the move again, starting on her journey to Brisbane for staging camps. Overall, she spent a total of five weeks in Queensland in what was a very hectic build-up before making the final trip to Tokyo.

Whilst it was an exhausting rush around the country, Beecroft acknowledged there had been some benefits to an extended period away.

“I think for Rio I was only away for about six weeks in total, but it’s been about double that now,” she said.

“In hindsight, it worked in my favour, as I was able to focus just solely on my swimming, my training and my preparation, so I think it paid off.”

Although in the back of their minds they knew they had a good shot at a podium finish, Beecroft said her respective relay teams weren’t putting any extra pressure on themselves before the lead up to the events.

“I just knew I wanted to swim some really good times in those events and I did and thankfully the rest of my team were really amazing as well,” she said.

“It all paid off and worked out really well.”

Beecroft admitted that whilst she was focused on swimming her quickest time, the lack of crowd also played a part in her own individual performances. Acknowledging that she is ‘quite a nervous athlete,’ Beecroft did appreciate the noise difference when comparing Tokyo to her first experience in Rio.

“I do know a lot of the other people in my team really enjoy the crowd and that’s what gets them up to race really fast,” she said.

“But not having as many people watching you definitely helped my nerves a little.”

For all the amazing achievements in her swimming career, Beecroft is also making great strides in life out of the pool. She credits the LEAP program for not only assisting her on her journey to Tokyo but allowing her to explore her career post swimming by studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Sport’s Management and Legal Studies.

“Being part of La Trobe has been amazing I couldn’t have asked for a better uni to go to,” she said.

“I’m just testing out the waters just to see what I like and at the moment I’m really liking the sports management and legal studies degrees.

“I took a leave of absence this semester to focus on everything but being a part of the LEAP program has helped my journey to Tokyo and I couldn’t ask for a better support team.”

When asked what her short to medium future looks like, Beecroft says she has shifted her focus to next year’s Commonwealth Games and then also to the Paris Paralympics in 2024.

Ultimately, her determination and fire show no signs of the nervous athlete that she described.

“I just want to make as many teams as I possibly can and represent my country as many times as I can.”