By Alison Thompson | For INAS
Swimmer Nikesha Harding has spoken of her determination to help Australia maintain their place at the top of the medals table when the 2019 International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairments (INAS) Global Games come to Brisbane from 12-19 October.
In five short months the city will welcome over 1,000 athletes competing in 10 sports. With Australia being top of the medals table at the 2015 edition in Ecuador, and top of the all-time table, all eyes will be on the home nation.
For Harding, the Global Games are extra special this time around: “It’s fantastic to be part of any INAS national team no matter what sport. It’s the team that makes the event so special, and I’m confident Australia will win this Global Games at home.
“It’s so very special to have the Games in Brisbane and to be able to represent my country at home. To have fellow Australians, and especially my proud family see me swim, will be amazing.”
Harding’s goal is crystal clear. “My personal ambition is to help Australia become the champions and to become a champion in front of my home crowd”.
The New South Wales swimmer comes to the games with formidable experience and success in the pool, including being a medal winner at the 2017 INAS Swimming Championships
“Winning at the Championships felt awesome,” Harding said. “It was the best feeling imaginable, like all the hard training had paid off. I felt so very proud.”
At just 20 years old, Harding is one of Australia’s brightest stars. She is currently the world No.1 in the INAS rankings for the 200m butterfly II1 and 5th in the 100m in the same stroke.
“Having these rankings makes me feel proud and special and I like that my achievements are recognised,” Harding said.
But now, like the rest of her teammates, the young Australian is focused on October’s Global Games with regular training and continuing to improve her results:
“I swam great personal bests at the recent national championships. I love my new club and my new coach and together we are making further improvements.”
Harding is set to compete in her usual mix of strokes at Brisbane 2019, but despite her strength and success, she is fully aware of what she, and the team, has to do to achieve the success they want.
“Brazil and China are both very strong teams but for me personally, my biggest opponent in butterfly will be Leslie Cichocki from the USA.”
Cichocki currently sits just one place behind Harding in the 100m butterfly rankings and two places behind in the 200m. Both athletes will compete at the Global Games with one eye on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics
But with all the hard work comes the importance of relaxation and downtime to recharge and refocus. “I love to see my friends every day and we see each other outside the pool and do fun things.
“Swimming helps clear my mind and improves my self-confidence and yes, sometimes it’s hard when I don’t achieve the times I would like to. But when I do swim well, it is all worth it.”
The INAS Global Games are world’s biggest high performance sports event for athletes with an intellectual impairment.
The 2019 edition runs from 12-19 October and is expected to attract more than 1,000 athletes competing in 10 sports.