Leo gets set for Games

THEY'VE spent years waking up before the sun, training their heart rate into overdrive and spreading their chlorinated selves across the country and globe in countless competitions ranging from fun meets to international showdowns.

Commitment is an understatement. So too is sacrifice.

But Kara Leo and Amanda Fowler say that when they stand behind the blocks to represent Australia at the Paralympic Games in London, every drop of lactic acid that's ever terrorised their body will be completely worth it.

"It'd be incredible to come back with a gold medal or any type of medal," said Leo, 19. "Not coming back with a medal, I suppose it'll be a bit of a disappointment but it's a privilege just to be on the team and experience the excitement of it all."

Leo, the Penrith Valley Sports Foundation Senior Sportstar of the Month for July, will compete in the S14 200m freestyle and the 100m backstroke. The former is her main event and securing gold is her priority.

"I'll probably be nervous but you've just got to get in and swim your own race," Leo said. "I know I can do it and I'll give it my best shot."

Leo has braved chilly mornings and late nights, excruciating coaching gems known as test sets, strenuous gym workouts at Fit4All in Penrith and undeniable feelings of wanting to throw in the towel.

"I've been training all my life for it and it's just something that I've wanted forever," Leo said. "But there are times where it gets too hard and I've just wanted to give up — the amount of sessions and hours — but it's worth it in the end."

Her guiding voices of reason and two invaluable "rocks" that have kept her dream on track are coach Jackie Barck and the woman who's chauffeured her to every training session — her mother Yasmin.

"I've got to thank Jackie for putting up with me and my family for their support," Leo said. "If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be where I am today."

Leo's training and Nepean Aquatic Centre Swim Club teammate, Fowler, also credits NAC head coach Barck for fuelling her flame of desire to compete at the Paralympics.

Fowler will race the S14 100 metre breaststroke but says she never thought she had a serious shot at the Games until meeting Barck two years ago.

"She said I had potential to make London," Fowler said. The 15-year-old is the second- youngest athlete and the only female Aboriginal athlete on the Paralympic team.

Kara has won $800, courtesy of the PVSF Senior Sportstar of the Month sponsor, Penrith Panthers.

Nominations: pvsf.org.au.

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