It takes a lot to faze Abby Kane. At only 12 years old the swimming superstar has already twice lowered the British record in the 100m backstroke S13. Even now, as Abby faces her biggest challenge to date — competing at her first Paralympic Games — the athlete maintains her cool. “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Abby admits. “I don’t know if it will.”
The Scottish parathlete who has Stargardt disease –a condition that leads to progressive vision deterioration – doesn’t even flinch at the idea of stepping up to the podium to compete against athletes twice her age. “I think it’s good I’m the youngest,” she grins. “Because there is less pressure.”
That’s not to say training doesn’t come with its challenges. Every days she works hard with her coach Sharon McIntyre to push her talents to the limit.
“There is always room for improvement,” says Sharon. “Abby tells me that I’m never happy and I tell her, “No I’m not, and that’s why you are a good swimmer.”
Meet 12 yr old Abby Kane of Ren96. The youngest athlete (and Scottish swimmer) so far to achieve the @rio2016 Paralympic qualification standard (with a time of 1:11.19) and break TWO British Records in the 100m Back in one day! #BPSIM16 🏊🏼👏🏼🎉 WOW! Congratulations Abby-what a great day 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 #scottishswimming #paraswimming #paralympictrials #RoadtoRio #picoftheday #photooftheday
EYES ON THE PRIZE
But it’s not all hard work. The pair have a close bond, joking about hot chocolate and chart music in between lapse. Abby even gave Sharon her first British medal, following in the footsteps of her big brother Fraser. He also has Stargardt disease and used to swim competitively, gifting Sharon his last British medal before making the switch from swimming to cycling.
Sharon says: “When Abby got her first British gold, the first thing that her brother said to her was: ‘You’ll have to give that to Sharon!’
“So she came into training one night and asked everyone to be quiet. She was holding this wee plastic bag. She turned to me and said, ‘There you go Sharon, that’s my first ever British gold medal.’”
Sharon now keeps both the Kane siblings’ medals pride of place in her home in West Kilbride, where Abby considers the spare room her own. “She likes staying over as it gives her the chance – if we drive fast enough – to actually dry her hair before going to school,” laughs Sharon.
Sharon is now looking forward to heading to Rio with her protege and Abby’s mum, Karen Jenkins. “We’re the driving force behind her,” explains Sharon.
Mum Karen thinks that heading to Brazil will give Abby that extra boost of confidence. “It’s going to be a completely new experience for her – it is the world stage,” says Karen. “Being partially sighted, she’s not able to see the audience but when we go along to competitions there is always some sort of support. I’m hoping the crowd support at Rio will give her that extra push.”
But it’s not only the Rio crowd that will be cheering Abby’s name. Karen is sure that friends and family in their hometown of Irvine will all be tuning in to watch Abby swim. “We live in quite a small town,” say Karen. “I’m sure that the tellies will all be on and they will be a lot of people shouting!”
Check out Abby’s training session below.
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