Pascoe good for Glasgow Games, says mentor

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 14/09/2012
Sophie Pascoe at ChCh airport
Iain McGregor

HEROE'S WELCOME: Hundreds turn out at Christchurch Airport to welcome Paralympian Sophie Pascoe back home.

Sophie Pascoe
Getty Images
EYES ON GLASGOW GAMES: Sophie Pascoe.

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A former New Zealand swimming hero is backing Canterbury's latest pool queen to achieve her Commonwealth Games dream.

Paralympics star Sophie Pascoe returned home to Christchurch yesterday from London with six medals - three gold and three silver - draped around her neck and a plan to bid for a berth on the 2014 Commonwealth Games team.

Her mentor, 1990 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anna Simcic-Forrest, brought her own family down to Christchurch Airport to welcome Pascoe home and has no doubt the 19-year-old has the ability to go to Glasgow.

"If Sophie wants to do something, she will set her mind to it," Simcic-Forrest said.

She said Pascoe was highly motivated and knew "no boundaries or barriers".

Pascoe said she would have a break for two weeks and was "looking at having a month out of the pool and having ‘me time' and being my age".

She was doing just that at the airport, calling for a "group hug" with her young QE II Swim training partners, who formed a guard of honour and sharing the moment with close friends Lucy Hills and Chris Lamb, the latter lifting the world and Paralympic challenge into the air.

But Pascoe still has a firm focus on the future - and with her S10 classification events now included on the Glasgow 2014 programme, she has another elite international event to target before the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

"Everything has to change from now on, it's another four years until Rio, I can't do the same as I did leading into London because we'd still be the same swimmer.

"We're looking at Glasgow. I've never been to a Commonwealth Games before so it should be exciting and going away to an able-bodied team is a new experience and new times, as well."

But she was happy just to bask in her homecoming and said she would "discuss swimming stuff in the next two months with my coach [Roly Crichton]."

Pascoe believes the support for the London Games has set a new benchmark for the Paralympics movement. "They've definitely raised the bar with the sellout crowds and people were obviously wanting [coverage] back home here.

"That's a great start with media more coverage. We're not fully there yet, but I believe we will [be]. It will just take time."

Pascoe said she had "definitely come home with my goals achieved", although she quipped that she would have liked to have swapped her three silver medals "for a different colour".

But she said there was a "huge difference" between her London and Beijing campaigns.

" I was 15 [in Beijing], young and naive but [won] three gold medals, whereas going into the London Games I was basically the target, you could say.

"The difference between the two Games was just phenomenal. Being in a packed stadium with 17,000 every day was just incredible. Great Britain really turned it on."

HUNDREDS WELCOME HERO HOME

Canterbury's Paralympic champion was welcomed back to Christchurch by hundreds of supporters and the promise of a home-cooked meal.

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Friends, family, fans and passers-by gathered at the arrival gate at Christchurch Airport last night for Sophie Pascoe's homecoming.

Sporting her London 2012 T-shirt and six gold and silver medals around her neck, Pascoe signed autographs, posed for photos and ordered a group hug from young fans.

Members of the QEII swim team clapped and cheered when Pascoe came through the arrival gate and children handed the champion home- picked flowers.

The 19-year-old took her time with supporters, slowly making her way through the crowd until she finally reached her family.

"It's just so amazing to see everyone here . . . I've had so much support, it just blows you away really. I've been inundated with emails and it's just awesome," she said.

"It's a great feeling just to finally get home and see friends but I haven't seen my family yet, so that's what I really want."

Barry Goodman said he was "indescribably proud" of his niece.

"Before she has a month's sleep, I think it's time for lasagne and then pavlova with mandarin mousse because it's her favourite."

Goodman said when Pascoe received "heartfelt letters" from young fans, it made him realise "just how much of a role model she is".

Young swimmers described Pascoe as "an inspiration", "a force to be reckoned with" and "a beautiful person".

"She's just so determined and she never gives up and it's something that a lot of young people can look up to," 13-year-old Jack Burgess said.

Hannah Bates, 12, said Pascoe would sometimes train with the QEII team.

"She's always so supportive of everyone else, even though she's the awesome one and we all love her."

Ruth Crawford, who has known Pascoe for about four years, said "she's just magic . . . I'm so proud of her".

- Canterbury

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