Tokyo Games Rio Paralympian's next goal

Paralympic swimmer Hamish McLean has been back  in New Zealand less than a week but has already...
Paralympic swimmer Hamish McLean has been back in New Zealand less than a week but has already set his sights on the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. PHOTO: TIM MILLER
After six weeks of intensive training and competition, Wanaka paralympic swimmer Hamish McLean will take a short break from the pool to focus on something a bit more relaxing: school work.

Hamish (16) arrived back in Wanaka on Sunday and has already moved his focus to the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

The Mount Aspiring College year 12 pupil finished the Rio de Janiero Paralympics with two personal best times and seventh in the final of the 400m freestyle, his main goal for the Games.

``I wasn't expecting to medal and my goal was to make the final of the 400m, which I did, so I am pretty happy with that.''

Walking out in front of the crowd during the final was a moment he would never forget.

``Just walking out in front of so many people cheering was pretty cool.''

The noise from the crowd was so loud his father, Alastair, had to put toilet paper in his ears.

Needing a diversion from three weeks of training in Orlando and seven days of paralympic competition, Hamish turned to school work.

``I wouldn't call it relaxing but it helped take my mind off things so I wasn't focusing on swimming all the time.''

Because there were seven days between his first and last event, Hamish was unable to attend any events outside the swimming arena.

``It was quite hard to keep the mental side of things right with the break in between, so I just had to stay in the village and try not get to distracted by everything else,'' Hamish said.

After the closing ceremony, he spent some time visiting the sights around the city.

``We got to go up Sugarloaf Mountain and see Christ the Redeemer, which was cool, and we got to see a bit of the city.''

During the Games, Hamish had the support of his parents Claire and Alastair, who enjoyed more of the sights and sounds of Rio de Janeiro than their son.

Because the athletes had to focus on their events, they were kept inside a ``bubble'' and outsiders, including parents, were kept at a distance, Mrs McLean said.

Swimming at Copacabana Beach and samba dancing with locals were just some of the activities they were able to enjoy outside Hamish's races.

``We only really got to see him once during the events ... We weren't allowed inside the bubble,'' she said.

Fears about safety in the Brazilian capital quickly faded once they got to know their surroundings.

``All the fears I had about the safety situation were put to rest pretty quickly once we got to meet the Rio people and discovered how friendly and helpful they were.''

Hamish has a goal of cutting 20sec off his personal best between now and 2020, to give himself a chance of winning a medal.

``My coaches think it's achievable so once I have relaxed and caught up with school work I will get back in the pool and start focusing on that.''

At present, he is happy to be back home and spending time with his friends and his dog, Harry.

tim.miller@odt.co.nz

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