“It will be very special for me to make my Paralympic debut, different to any other competition. It is a big honour to represent the Netherlands."
Five years after taking up swimming, Dutch teenager Liesette Bruinsma will compete at her first Paralympic Games where she will be pushing to win more medals after claiming her first major international medals.
The 15-year-old won three golds, one silver and one bronze in women’s S11 events at May’s IPC Swimming European Open Championships in Funchal, Portugal.
“I want to swim faster than ever in Rio,” said Bruinsma.
“It will be very special for me to make my Paralympic debut, different to any other competition. It is a big honour to represent the Netherlands.
“Funchal was a very competitive event which served as preparation for Rio 2016.”
The 15-year-old burst onto the sporting scene last December, when she broke seven world records in two consecutive events held in Szczecin, Poland, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Earlier this year, Bruinsma went on to lower the 100m freestyle S11 and the 100m breaststroke SB11 world records at the Swim Cup in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
“I have bigger chances of winning gold in those two events at the Paralympics. That would be great,” she said.
“It is wonderful to be a world record holder! I still cannot believe it and cannot describe the feeling of finishing a race and being told by your coach that you have broken a world record.”
Among Bruinsma’s main rivals for Rio 2016 are Sweden’s London 2012 gold medallist Maja Reichard, Italy’s two-time Paralympic champion Cecilia Camellini, New Zealand’s reigning triple-world champion Mary Fisher and Germany’s multiple Paralympic medallist Daniela Schulte.
“They are very experienced swimmers who have competed for many years, unlike me,” said Bruinsma.
“All of them are training very hard to swim as fast as they can in Rio. Everything can happen at a Paralympic Games, where there are always surprises.”
Apart from swimming, Bruinsma is looking forward to “sharing the Paralympic Village with athletes from different sports and countries."
“I am used to sharing events just with swimmers,” she said.
Bruinsma is currently in high school, where she receives full support from the authorities for her swimming career.
“My daily school plan was built upon my training sessions and competitions. I go four days per week and, when I cannot attend school, I study at home and ask my teachers if I have any doubts. It is still very demanding,” she said.
The Dutch swimmer has achieved many things in a short period of time and believes there is one reason for that.
“I am very young and have swum for only five years. I do not think there is a secret for my rapidly improving form, but I guess it is because I have fun swimming,” she said.
Editor’s note: “Faces of the Future” is a series published once a month on Paralympic.org that introduces you to some of the young, rising talent in para-sport.