ALANI Ferreira proved herself to be one of the stars of the South African Short Course Swimming Championships, which wrapped up in the KwaZulu-Natal capital yesterday.
The Pietermaritzburg Seals swimming star set six South African records in the para-swimming S13 class, and capturing seven gold medals.
“I’m pretty happy with all of my times. I didn’t think that I would get close to some of my personal bests, so I am quite happy with where I am at the moment,” a tired Ferreira told The Witness after the Championships had ended.
Ferreira is classified in the S13 class because she suffers from a genetic eye disorder, which causes a blind spot in the middle of her vision.
She first dealt with her sight problems in Grade 2 by wearing reading glasses, but it was not until Grade 6 that her condition was diagnosed.
In the beginning, she was able to play tennis and hockey, but then her eyesight became too poor to continue with those sports. Doctors, however, told her that sport was good for her.
“When my vision deteriorated, they told me I should try and do sport again to relieve stress, and I started swimming. Now I can’t go a week without it because I go insane,” she laughed.
While she trains at her school, Epworth, twice a week, Pietermaritzburg Seals is her swimming home. There are three good reasons for that, Ferreira shared: the pool is heated, it’s indoors, and the coaching is excellent.
Wayne Riddin, her coach at Seals, and a former South African Olympic head coach, said Ferreira has been making rapid strides.
“Alani in the last year, for a swimmer of her disability, has progressed more than the average kid because she is obviously trying to go somewhere.
“Because she is focused on where she is trying to go, obviously she is listening better and she is trying out new ways of swimming and it is working for her.
“As she gets results, she is happy with where she is going, so she is getting more and more enthusiastic and motivated.
“That whole package is helping her to swim faster.”