He became excruciatingly close to competing at the Tokyo Paralympics – but now superfast swimmer Alex Saffy is finally set to live his dream of representing Australia.
The 16-year-old “Bunbury Bullet” has been named in the Australian swim team that will compete in the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships.
He forms part of a 21-strong squad that will wear the green and gold at the international meet, which will mark the South African-born talent’s debut as a Dolphin.
It’s an exciting time for Saffy as he prepares to head to the Gold Coast in the lead-up to flying to Portugal for Worlds, but it hasn’t always been smooth waters for the swimming sensation.
Not being internationally classified proved a barrier to Tokyo for the young gun despite being provisionally qualified – and then, moving categories, he faced another battle.
“Nationally, I was classified as an S9 and then I moved up. Internationally, I was classified as an S10,” Saffy said.
“My rankings dropped a bit and it was a bit of a struggle mentally, I guess.
“So, I just knew I had to work twice as hard to get my rankings back up there and make the Dolphins team.”
The former Bunbury Catholic College student, who has been based in Canberra this year to train at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in support of fulfilling his swimming goals, said it was important to work hard and set goals in order to stay on track.
“When you are working towards a goal, it helps you to stay motivated even when you have disappointments,” Saffy said.
“Be consistent and disciplined because there are times that sacrifices are necessary, but the rewards will come, especially if you set realistic goals along the way and you do the work necessary to get there.”
The teenager, who has dyskinetic cerebral palsy, has been helped along the way by the South West Academy of Sport, WAIS and the Wally Foreman Foundation.
“I am so grateful for all they have done for me as they have played an important part in helping me to achieve my goal of making the Australian team,” Saffy said.
Saffy said travel, as well as the friendships he has made over the years, has kept him motivated in his sport.
“By setting goals and working towards them, I have been able to overcome the disappointments and be motivated by the little achievements along the way,” Saffy said.
“Every athlete wants to represent their country and it is a big honour to have been selected onto the team.”
Saffy will race in the 50m Free, 100 Free and 100 Fly events at the carnival in Madeira, which will attract the best para swimmers from around the globe.
“I am just going to try to do my best. Just soak in the atmosphere, enjoy the time there,” Saffy said.