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Blackburn happily chasing her dreams

Never in Lisa Blackburn’s wildest dreams did she imagine to still be competing in the Pan Am Games 12 years after winning multiple medals in her debut competition.

Wearing the colours of Canada, where she was raised, the Bermudian-born swimmer scooped silver medals in the 200 metres breaststroke and the 4x100 medley relay, as well as a bronze in the 100 breaststroke at the 2003 Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Blackburn, who also competed for Bermuda at the 2011 Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, is thrilled to have “survived the test of time” and will become a three-times Pan Am Games athlete when she takes to the pool at the University of Toronto Scarborough today.

“I have always looked up to other athletes who compete at several Games and never in my wildest dreams did I think that would be me someday,” Blackburn said. “It only hit me a couple of weeks ago that this will be my third Pan Am Games.

“It has really made me respect the commitment required to compete at this level for so long and to be proud of this accomplishment.

“To qualify for three Games over a 12-year period is pretty neat. I never thought I would be one of those athletes who survives the test of time.”

The 44-year-old, who will compete in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, as well as the 200 individual medley, said she is grateful to still be holding her own at the international level and believes her undiminished love for the sport, and family support, are the cornerstones of her success.

“My family, friends, coaches and sponsors [the Bermuda Olympic Association, Validus, GNLD International, and Rodmat Solutions] keep me motivated,” Blackburn said.

“Especially my mum and dad who have been my biggest cheerleaders since I began swimming in high school. They continue to encourage and support me, especially during the challenging times.

“I definitely wouldn’t be able to do it without their support, so they are a huge part of my journey and success, that’s for sure.

“This journey is also about living a life that is meaningful and fun. When your heart and mind enjoys the year-round commitment of hard work, the performances will come.

“Although this job does not pay well, it affords me a quality of life, health and fitness and a daily routine that I love.”

In preparation for Toronto, Blackburn has trained alongside several world-class swimmers from the South Florida Aquatic Club in Pembroke Pines under the guidance of Olympic coach Chris Anderson.

A few niggling injuries have held Blackburn back slightly in training, but she is determined to put on a good show in what will likely be her last hurrah at the Pan Am Games.

“I’m really fortunate to be able to train with the present world record holder [Alia Atkinson from Jamaica] in the 100 breaststroke, my speciality event,” she said.

“Other world-class swimmers from Colombia, Brazil and the United States are also based here, so the training environment is very challenging.

“I have competed at a couple of Arena Pro Series meets in Mesa, Arizona, and Charlotte, North Carolina, and returned home for the Validus National Swimming Championships in May.

“My form has been good, although I have had a couple of injuries over the past few months but will still give it my all in Toronto.”

Blackburn said it was always a privilege to represent Bermuda and has not given up on her ultimate ambition of flying the Island’s flag on the greatest stage of all: the Olympic Games.

“Nothing compares to meeting athletes from other countries and walking into the stadium during the opening ceremony behind the Bermuda flag,” she said.

“It really is an experience that is hard to explain, but a huge sense of pride and gratefulness comes over you.

“I mostly want to enjoy the atmosphere in Toronto, from the Athletes’ Village to racing in my events.

“I also think this opportunity is going to be a great stepping stone in order to reach my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio.”

If anyone would like to join Blackburn on her Pan Am Games experience they can visit her website http://lisa-blackburn.com.