London calls for Okotoks swimmer
Swimming: Kirstie Kasko qualifies for 2012 Paralympic Games
Wednesday, Jun 06, 2012 06:03 pm
A 19-year-old swimmer is about to put Okotoks on the map at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Okotokian Kirstie Kasko was named as one of Canada's 24 representatives on the Paralympic swim team for the 2012 Games in London, announced Swimming Canada in a June 4 press release.
“I was expecting to make it actually and it was one of my dreams to make it,” Kasko said. “I'm really excited because I'm ranked 10th in the 100m backstroke now, so I have a pretty good chance and I want to take off as much time as I possibly can.”
The 19-year-old qualified for the Paralympic Games based on her swimming performance at the trials at Montreal in late March.
Kasko, 19, was at home with her mother Gail when she found out the good news while perusing the family computer.
“My mom was here and I told her and she was like ‘what? Really?' and then she saw my name on the website and called my grandma as well,” Kasko said.
Kasko also gave Dianna Atkinson, one of her former teachers at Holy Trinity Academy, a call upon hearing of her selection to London.
“I told my teacher that I'd be going and she was really excited,” Kasko said. “She was the teacher that I had for my math that really inspired me to push through it and she told all the other teachers in the school.”
Kasko, an S-14 classified athlete for para-swimmers with an intellectual disability, will be competing in the 100m backstroke on Aug. 31, the 200m freestyle on Sept. 2 and the 100m breaststroke on Sept. 6 at the brand new Aquatic Centre in London.
Kasko has experience swimming in Europe as a competitor at the INAS Global Games in Genoa, Italy last summer, but has never touched down in Great Britain.
“I've never actually been to England,” Kasko said.
“I'm excited also because my cousins from Scotland are coming to watch me and I've only met them once.”
Kasko will be busy in preparation for London 2012.
First, she's competing in the Can-Am Para Swimming Championships July 20-22 in Winnipeg. Kasko will be participating in the Canadian Paralympic swim team's training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona for two weeks. She will also be in Italy as part of a Swimming Canada training camp in the weeks in advance of the Paralympic Games, which debut on Aug. 29.
Fortunately for the Okotokian she will have lots of friendly faces along for the ride as Kasko's good friends Sarah Mailhot, from Quebec City, Morgan Bird, from Calgary, and Zachary McAllister, from Lethbridge, all qualified for the team.
Kasko said she had many people to thank for their support in reaching her goal, including her coach with the Foothills Stingrays Todd Melton, Lorna Thiem at Natural High, massage therapist Tamara Leduc, acupuncturist Wendy Powell and physiotherapist Bob Dunlop.
Melton, who has coached Kasko for three years, was beaming with pride when discussing having a swimmer of his reach the Paralympic Games.
“It's pretty cool,” Melton said. “I'm more happy for her than anything. She made a lot of sacrifices this year, she's worked really hard, she's done a lot of dry land and strength training on her own.”
“We're extremely proud of Kirstie and very excited as a club.”
Melton said Kasko has gone the extra mile to improve her swimming.
“Kirstie started with me (as an) able bodied (swimmer) and she has made steady improvement throughout the last three years,” Melton said. “She's made huge gains, this year especially. As soon as we got her classified into Para it was like opening a whole new world for her.”
“She's swimming for something so her dedication level has gone through the roof.”