Kiwi Paralympian Sophie Pascoe is swimming with a heavy heart at the Rio Games following the death of her close friend and training partner, Hayley Edmond, nine days ago.
Edmond, 21, had trained with Pascoe since 2014 and died on September 1 after losing a "very short yet courageous battle with cancer", according to her death notice.
Edmond represented New Zealand at age-grade level and formed a close bond as training partner with Pascoe in the leadup to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Pascoe penned a touching tribute to Edmond on social media last week describing her as "a beautiful woman inside and out."
Today it finally sunk in, I let myself go..," Pascoe wrote on Wednesday. "Remembering you, our friendship and having you along the journey to the Paralympic Games with me! You were a beautiful woman inside and out, always encouraging myself and others to get the best out of each other. The last words I said to you before I left were, "I'll see you when I'm home from the Paralympics." I'm so sorry that I will not be coming home to give you a hug. I will cherish the moment I last saw you with your fighting spirit and most of all that last hug goodbye! You have made me realise how precious life is. I'm now in that privileged position to make the most of my life to finish what I set out to do. I know you'll be watching me from above. Rest easy and shine bright in the sky Hayley, You and our memories we created together will never be forgotten! Lots of love S xx."
Pascoe's made a superb start to her Rio Paralympics campaign on Saturday (NZT), claiming silver in the women's 50m freestyle S10, and her thoughts soon turned to Edmond.
"Hayley was a great training partner and a great swimmer, the 50m free was her event so today was definitely a moment for her," Pascoe told Fairfax media from Rio.
"She was a massive part of the whole journey to Rio for me, and I'm definitely thinking about her. It's so hard for her family and the whole swimming community, Hayley was so young and such a great person. It's a terribly sad loss."
This morning, Pascoe finished first in the heats for the Women's 100m Backstroke S10 and easily glided through to the finals in a time of 1:07.23, nearly 2sec ahead of the next qualifier.
She will swim in the final at 10.31am this morning.