Teenage talent Bruinsma targets first world titles

Dutch swimmer Liesette Bruinsma left Rio 2016 with two Paralympic titles and now wants more gold medals in Mexico City. 23 Mar 2017 By By Becki Ellsmore | For the IPC

“I am looking forward to the World Championships in Mexico. I hope to swim good races. It is my first World Championships [and] I hope to win a world title.”

Dutch swimmer Liesette Bruinsma made a splash on her Paralympic Games debut in Rio in 2016, and is ready to take on the 2017 season where she will go for her first world titles.

After just turning 16, Bruinsma won two gold, a silver and two bronze medals at Rio 2016. That was only a few months after making her major international debut at the European Championships in Funchal, Portugal.

Her sights are now firmly set on a busy year, where she will compete in the women’s S11 at the World Para Swimming World Series in Berlin, Germany in July, and the World Championships in Mexico City in September.

“I am looking forward to the World Championships in Mexico. I hope to swim good races. It is my first World Championships [and] I hope to win a world title,” she said.

Bruinsma has also already started to think about the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games: “I want to defend my Paralympic titles. I want to swim faster than ever and perform even better than in Rio.”

Before her unforgettable Paralympic debut, the teenager had been competing in regional competitions for a number of years and showing potential in domestic competitions.

“We have an outside swimming pool in our village. I liked to swim there every summer. I also wanted to swim in the winter [so] I started training at a club,” she explained. “I received a national classification two years after I started swimming. I broke national records six months later. I swam Dutch Championships and won bronze medals...I massively improved my time during every competition. I changed clubs and started to train more. I swam my first world record on the 200m breaststroke short course in November 2014.”

All the hard work paid off with selection for Rio.

“It is an honour to represent my country at major competitions. I tried to describe what the Games were like to people in the Netherlands. I think you must experience the Games to see how amazing it is,” she said. “I had the time of my life in Rio. It was amazing.

“I swam six distances in Rio [and] I swam a personal best in the final 400m freestyle. My goal was to win a gold medal, but I left with two gold medals, five medals in total.

“I gave all I had every race. The reward of five medals is indescribable. I don't have words to describe exactly how it felt. It is wonderful.

“The only disadvantage was that my hand-luggage was a bit heavy!”

Bruinsma also appreciated the efforts the Games organisers made for visually impaired athletes, with the medals designed to make a rattling sound when shaken. She has other ways of treasuring the medals too. “I had a picture of me and one of my medals made with a 3D-printer. You can feel [the picture].”

Despite her youth, Bruinsma has a considered outlook on life as an athlete.

“I have improved myself in my races and training. I think it is very important to learn about yourself and from yourself. You grow in your sport and you become a little bit more professional.”

The World Series takes in some of the biggest Para swimming competitions around the world ahead of the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City, from 29 September-6 October.

Sao Paulo, Brazil; Sheffield, Great Britain; Indianapolis, USA; and Berlin, Germany, will host events between March-July.

The Mexico 2017 World Para Swimming Championships will be held from 30 September-6 October, with around 550 swimmers from more than 60 countries competing.