BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Accomplished Paralympian Tammy Cunnington spent time with the youth of École Lacombe Upper Elementary School (ELUES) during a recent presentation, where she shared her story of success.
Cunnington is a former para-triathlon athlete who switched to competitive para-swimming in 2014, after the para-triathlon was removed from Paralympic games. She has since accomplished a great deal in a short time in her career as a competitive swimmer.
Cunnington had an amazing year shattering a number of her personal records at the 2016 Canadian Paralympic Swimming Trials. Last year, Cunnington saw great success at the 2015 Parapan American (Am) Games held in Toronto, where she snagged three medals, silver in the 200m freestyle and bronze in the 100m freestyle and 4x50m freestyle relay. She also set North and South America records at the same event for the 50m butterfly event.
As of May 2016, Cunnington also holds Canadian records in the 50m and 100m freestyle category and 50m butterfly.
This year, Cunnington competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympic games, placing 11th in the 50m butterfly, 150m individual medley and 50m freestyle events and 13th in the 50m breaststroke.
“My rise in swimming has happened very quickly. I switched from para-triathlon to swimming in 2014 and once I made that switch, it was only six months before I made the national championship team to compete at the 2015 Parapan Am Games,” Cunnington said with a small laugh.
“It was about another six months until I competed in Toronto at the Parapan Am Games. All said and done, it was only about 18 months before I made the Rio Paralympic team. It’s been quite a quick ride for me, but there is still lots for me to learn and grow from.”
Cunnington was invited to ELUES to inspire the students and she explored how dedication, passion and perseverance are really the most important aspects in finding joy in life. She was invited as part of the student’s health and wellness fair as a keynote speaker.
“My goal with the kids is to show them what it outside of the limitations they think they have or what other people have put on them – whether those kids are ‘able’ or not. I want to show them you have to find things in life you are passionate about and want to do, and that brings a better quality of life overall,” she said.
“The health and wellness aspect makes me happy and fitness is a passion for me. However, success doesn’t have to be about being fit or healthy but it’s really about finding joy in the things that you do with your life. With the presentations, I really focus on perseverance, hard work and dedication in all aspects of life.
“We may not be the best at the things we love, but we can always improve in what makes us happy. There are always ways to improve and to put in more time and there are so many benefits for hard work at the end.”
Cunnington was a figure skater prior to an accident that left her a paraplegic, with the full use of her right arm plus core and shoulders. At six years old, she was struck by an airplane at an air show in Ponoka. She has never let this stop her from maintaining her love of health and fitness and inspiring others to pursue the same.