Rotorua's Shyla-Mei Corbett is a shining example of what can be achieved with enough desire. The 17-year-old has cerebral palsy and has found freedom and enjoyment in the pool. On Sunday, she made a splash in Tauranga.
Good luck telling Shyla-Mei Corbett she can't do something.
When the Rotorua 17-year-old with cerebral palsy decides on a goal, she does it and always with a smile.
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Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood. Signs and symptoms vary among people and over time. Shyla-Mei's type of cerebral palsy is characterised by altering muscle tone and involuntary muscle movement, affecting her balance, co-ordination and her ability to speak.
On Sunday, she completed the 300m swim leg as part of a team in the Have a Go event at the Tinman Triathlon in Tauranga. Wet and windy conditions were not ideal but she was determined and, with the assistance of her swim coach Maxine Parker, she kicked her way to the finish line.
Julia Hewitt, a member of Achilles NZ - an organisation aimed at providing New Zealanders with disabilities the opportunity to participate alongside able-bodied athletes at events - completed the walk section and Nikayla Wood rounded out the team on a recumbent bike.
Shyla-Mei's mum Nicole Corbett was immensely proud of her daughter.
"It was raining and windy but she still did it, she completed the 300m, it was really good. Maxine was with her, helping and steadying her, but she kicked the whole course herself.
"She did really well, the water was a bit chilly. I could hear her yelling but it was excited yelling, not 'I want to get out' yelling."
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She said Shyla-Mei was all smiles after the race. She has been swimming with Parker at Swim-Able in Rotorua for just over a year.
"Even doing that sort of race without any disabilities would be tough but to do with all that she has to deal with is amazing. We were really proud. She has always been adventurous and since she has been swimming with Maxine she has come so far.
"She can dive under the water and hold her breath for a decent amount of time now. I couldn't believe she could even do that but Maxine is just amazing, she's really good with Shyla-Mei and understands all about cerebral palsy. If it wasn't for her we wouldn't even think to enter her in these sorts of events," Corbett said.
Parker said Shyla-Mei was great to work with and she was proud of how far she had come since joining Swim-Able.
"It's about her journey for her and enabling her to have independence in an activity she loves. It's her confidence and her skill level - her enjoyment in the water.
"Earlier this year we did the Huka Extreme, a river swim. Myself and another swimmer Kylie Lang supported her in the 3km river swim along with the event organisers who put on a special paddle boarder for us.
"It's also about helping event organisers ensure their events are inclusive. The Tinman director Paul Miller said 'whatever it takes, whatever help you need, just let us know'. That then enables Shyla-Mei to participate alongside everyone else, because why shouldn't she?"
"It's about her journey for her and enabling her to have independence in an activity she loves. It's her confidence and her skill level - her enjoyment in the water."
Parker said it was important to look at solutions rather than problems and take advice from other athletes with disabilities.
"It's absolutely a learning experience for everyone. We are a community of all abilities and I feel very strongly about helping everyone be part of the community."
Parker coaches swimmers at the Rotorua Aquatic Centre, which she said was a fabulous facility, but she had a greater goal.
"The goal is to have a pool and possibly a complex for all abilities. The Rotorua Aquatic Centre is a fabulous facility but it just doesn't work for everybody. I am not in any way disrespecting the aquatic centre but we want to build an all-abilities facility that can be used by all.
"It would have special acoustics, light sensitivity, gradually go from shallow to deep and changing facilities purpose-built so an adult can be taken in, showered and laid down. Most of them have to leave the complex to go and get dressed.
"There's a whole part of society who can't participate in what they would like to because they have challenges so let's take away the barriers," she said.