Germany’s 17-year-old swimming sensation, Maike Naomi Schnittger, is aiming to fulfil a childhood dream at next week’s International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming European Championships by qualifying for London 2012.
The current world number one at 400m Freestyle S12 will also be aiming to win her first gold medal in Berlin next week having won silver over the distance at the last Europeans in 2006.
Maike Naomi Schnittger said: “I watched my first Paralympic Games in 2008 at a youth camp and it was fantastic. I have never seen such a big event and it is my biggest dream to race in London.
“It would be great to start in several finals there and my dream is to get a medal.
“In Berlin I want to swim new personal bests and try to defend my silver in the 400m Freestyle,” added Schnittger, who admits she likes the feeling of success.
To win 400m Freestyle gold it is likely Schnittger will have to beat her close rival Yuliya Volkova of the Ukraine whose personal best of 4:51 is just two seconds behind hers.
Schnittger also has a chance of a medal in the 100m Freestyle however, will have to swim against Russia’s three-time Paralympic gold medal winner Oxana Savchenko who is widely regarded as the world’s fastest Paralympic swimmer.
The two will also meet in the 200m Individual Medley and the 50m Freestyle, a race Savchenko will start as favourite having taken gold in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and 2010 World Championships.
Although competition between the two is fierce, Schnittger says their rivalry stays in the pool.
“When we are sitting waiting for the last call, we laugh and talk together. We are only opponents in the water,” Schnittger said.
Schnittger, who was born with a Cone Dystrophy, an inherited disorder which leads to vision loss, is not the only athlete hoping to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympics at the IPC Swimming European Championships.
More than 440 athletes from 36 countries competing in what will be one of the last major international gatherings of swimmers before the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Other top athletes include Ukraine’s Maksim Veraksa, the fastest Para-swimmer in the world, and Norway’s World Champion Sarah Louise Rung.