Make every stroke count, says star swimmer

KARL BERGEMANN

From the moment she first opened her eyes, Rocklands’s Jenna Jaggers, 15, has had to overcome battle after battle, hospitalisation and disability throughout her childhood, but that fighting spirit has translated into championship material in the pool, where she is well on her way to making a name for herself in the swimming arena.

A big part of her winning regime is the support of her family, who are behind her for every lap.

Her brother, Ryan, swims alongside her at competitions and her parents, Denver and Undine, are the guiding hands behind both athletes.

“From the time she was three weeks old to the age of seven ,Jenna was in and out of hospital. In fact, the doctors said she wouldn’t make it past seven.

And still, here she is, 15 years old and living a normal life. She has now been selected as a global ambassador for the disabled and recently returned from Switzerland.

“She is an example to kids out there, especially those with disabilities, that your situation is not the end of the world and that you can make something of your life no matter what comes your way. That is the message we want people to hear,’“ says Undine.

If you look at what Jenna has achieved over the last five years, you can see that with the right support you can do amazing things,” says Undine.

Accompanied by her father, Jenna jetted off to Bloemfontein last weekend to compete at the National Championships for the Physically Disabled. It was a chance for the young athlete to test herself against international standards and improve her times in her divisions.

“Although Jenna didn’t medal at the championships, we know that it went well as she was able to improve her times across the board.

“The championships don’t work according to placements, they are structured along the lines of percentages of world records in different disability categories,” says Denver.

“Based on finishing times as a percentage of these records, medals are awarded. Although we would’ve liked to come away with a medal, we don’t measure the success of the event on that.

“Just a week later, swimming at the national able-bodied championships at UWC, she came away with four silver medals, so we can see the progress there,” says Denver.

Jenna admits she is not sure what she sees for herself in her sporting future, but her immediate aim is to keep improving on her times and taking it from there.

“Swimming at the national championships was tough. It was a different experience for me, and I was a little nervous with all the people there. I just told myself to focus and that I can do it. I believe that if you train hard and have the correct level of focus, you will be able to achieve your goals. It helps having my brother in the same sport. We talk to each other and push each other to do well,” says Jenna.

A Princeton High School Grade 8 pupil, Ryan Jaggers is swimming in his older sister’s wake. He is a level one swimmer and hopes to break into the level 2 ranks like Jenna in the near future.

The two are close and their bond helps alleviate some of the pressure on race day, so they zone out in each other’s company and avoid distraction.

“Leading up to competitions, we put in a lot of work in during training. We focus a lot on our endurance as well as improving our technique.

“Before a race, Jenna and I just talk and laugh and do our stretches together and then focus on the race itself and the goals we have set. It’s good that we are close and that we can encourage each other to do better.

“When I’m in the pool I don’t worry about all the other competitors. I know that if I put my mind to it I will have a good race and that is what I focus on,” says Ryan.