Visions of success in the pool

JASON HILLS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Amber Thomas may not have her sight, but she certainly has her eyes set on success in the pool.

The 13-year-old native lost her vision, four years ago after suffering a brain tumour. While going through surgery to remove the tumour, one of the side effects was her loss of vision.

Swimming was part of her life since she was five-years-old and despite her disabilty, she hasn't jumped away from the pool.

"I really didn't want to quit swimming when I lost my sight. It happened in October and I was back in the pool by the summer," said Thomas.

"I have my down days, but I just focus on the positives and not let it bother me."

After losing her sight, there were many obstacles she had to face not only in the pool, but in everday life, but the Drayton Valley Neptune swim club member has faced the obstacles head on, which makes her parents Wade and Cheryl Thomas proud.

"We are so proud of her. As tough as this is for her to go through, she has accepted it," said Cheryl.

"As a parent you aren't sure how your child is going to react," Cheryl said.

"The first thing she said to us when she lost her sight was 'At least I won't have the pain anymore'. She's taken a positive approach to everything and if she wants to try something new, we don't stop her."

Thomas took the time to learn brail and just five weeks ago she has a guide dog named Thomas.

"That was his name already and I didn't want to change it, so his name is Thomas Thomas," chuckled Amber.

"I am learning to walk with him, we have our good days and our bad days, but he's quickly becoming a great friend."

In the pool, Thomas has either her mother or father stand along the deck and they tap with a clapper on the edge of the pool and on her head as she approaches the edge of the pool.

When Amber hears the taps, she knows to either touch the wall or do her flip turn.

"I have had some bumps and bruises, but they don't bother me at all," said Thomas, showing off her most recent bumps from hitting the lane rope.

"All the people around here, we don't let our disabilities bother us."

Thomas qualified for the Alberta Summer Games last year in Red Deer, and recently attended the Can Am Games for the disabled in Vancouver.

Even though she is barely in her teens, she has her goal set high in the pool not letting her disability stop her from living her dream.

She wants to qualify for the Paralymics in either 2008 or 2012.

"This has really opened up a lot of doors for me. I don't think I would have been able to experience some of these competitions if it weren't for my disability," Thomas added.

"That would definitely be a dream of mine to be able to go to the Paralympics. I am going to go to the trials in April and see what kind of times I would need to qualify."

Thomas has been piling up the medal count in her first two days of competition. She won a silver medal in the 100m freestyle and a bronze in the 100m backstroke Sunday night, and last night she won a bronze in the 100m breastroke.

She has a chance to win two more medals in the 200 Individual Medley and the 50m freestyle.

"My coach back in Drayton Valley couldn't be with me this weekend so I want to win as many medals as I can to bring them back home for him."

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AMBER THOMAS

MEDAL HAUL

Amber Thomas is three for three in her first three swim events.

- Silver medal in 100m freestyle.

1:24:04

-Bronze medal in 100m backstroke

1:44.60

- Bronze medal in the 100m breastroke.

1:56:40


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