Ella Jones’s selection to represent Australia at the World Para-swimming Championships after only three years as a swimmer is evidence of her extraordinary persistence.
She’s lost 23 kilograms since then. Sitting at the side of the pool in her gym training gear, her blonde hair piled on top of her head, she looks every bit the athlete.
As well as swimming, losing the weight meant cutting out daily trips to the fish and chip shop with her school friends.
"I was so unfit," she recalls.
"When I got to the end of 25 metres I would hang over the edge, absolutely dying."
She can now swim five or six-kilometre sets for hours each day and fits in several gym sessions a week. Since her selection for the Dolphins, she has added weekly strength and conditioning sessions with a trainer with who specialises in training athletes with cerebral palsy. She’s had to sacrifice a lot to get there.
For one thing, conventional school had to go by the wayside. She signed up with the TAFE Pathways last year but has had to let that go too.
"I was really struggling to get it all done; struggling to get help. When you train by yourself and you’re doing all your schoolwork by yourself, you want a bit of human interaction," she said.
She’s now completing a bridging course to study midwifery at university.
Her biggest sacrifices, however, have been social. The bubbly and gregarious teenager finds missing out on birthday parties and the like can be isolating but it’s the everyday interactions she misses most.
"It’s the little things, teenage normalcy stuff like going to the pub for the first time," she said.
Because of her heavy training schedule and swim meets, Ella didn’t have her ritual first night in the pub until three months after her birthday.