ALICE Tai and Leo McCrea are on course to become two of the future faces of Paralympic swimming in Britain.
Seagulls’ Alice and Poole’s Leo are aged only 13 and eight, respectively, but both are already making waves in disability swimming.
Olympic torch-bearer Alice, a member of Bournemouth Collegiate School’s swimming academy, has won a string of medals since breaking into the national scene two years ago.
Now she is poised to make her international debut after being selected for a British team that heads for Berlin next month.
She will be the youngest member of the team at the German International open meet from June 28 to July 2.
Her mum Angie said: “She has already had a training camp in Manchester with the rest of the team and trying on her kit was a very exciting moment.”
She added: “Alice has set herself specific targets for the next four years. Her first goal was to make the team for Berlin. Her medium and long-term goals are selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016.”
Alice, who swam in Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic trials earlier this year, has also been nominated by British Disability Swimming for a place on the British Paralympic Association’s Inspiration Programme.
The programme is already looking at 2016 hopefuls and setting in place workshops to help them deal with the pressures they will face in the future – including their own and others’ expectations, coping with injuries, dealing with press, good dietary habits and balancing school and training and enjoying family and social life.
Alice, who is on the lookout for sponsorship to help finance her training and competition costs, will carry the Olympic torch at Blandford on July 12.
Alice was born with a severe club-foot deformity of both feet which means she can’t run, jump or skip. She has already endured 12 operations.
Meanwhile, Leo – who will not be nine until November – was named under-14 Achiever of the Meet after his third appearance at the Dwarf National Games in Birmingham.
Despite his very young age, he won gold in all three of his events – the u/14 25m freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke in personal best times of 32.51, 35.66 and 38.40 – to retain the Margaret Scott Trophy that he also won last year.
He received his medals from Paralympic double champion Ellie Simmonds, who also swam in the relays.
Poole head coach Robin Armayan said: “He’s very competitive and a very hard worker.”
Leo’s mum Corinne said: “We are not looking as far ahead as the Paralympics – he’s only eight! – but he does like to measure himself against club swimmers with no disability.”
Leo did not confine his winning ways to the pool in Birmingham. He also won three golds and a bronze for athletics and was in the team that won the football gold medal.
n More swimming in today’s Youth Sport supplement.