New Zealand's Paralympic golden girl Sophie Pascoe slipped into the athlete's village yesterday and hardly raised an eyebrow.

But when the 19-year-old took to the pool for the first time in London there were plenty of fellow competitors halted in their tracks.

Four years ago at the Beijing Games hardly anyone paid the Cantabrian any notice, before the then 15-year-old collected three gold and one silver medal.

Since Beijing, Pascoe has spent hours upon hours of in the gym and the pool that has resulted in her further development into an athlete primed for first-rate competition.


Pascoe and coach Rolly Crichton have spent the past five weeks preparing for the games at altitude in Arizona, USA, mixing training and shading themselves from the scorching summer conditions that often touched forty degrees.

Pascoe's sculpted physique is testament to the gruelling training regime that Crichton has instigated since Pascoe surprised her competition four years ago. But just as pleasing for Crichton is the way she's been able to mature mentally as well.

"Sophie being stronger sort of makes her mind stronger, and if you haven't got the top two inches in this game then you're not in the ball park, the Olympics is for no fools."

Sophie hasn't had everything her own way during the past few years, not only during competition but the disruption caused by the Christchurch earthquakes to her main training base has meant a rolling-with-the-punches attitude has become a way of life.

Maybe her ability to deal with situations like that stem from the take-no-prisoners style that Crichton brings to his coaching.

"We've had a couple of wake up calls, but then Sophie's gone out there and put the pressure back on those athletes," said Crichton.

And as for the issues surrounding Christchurch, "you don't find out who you are and what you are until something like that [the earthquake] happens and I guess other sports like rugby and so on have proved that in Christchurch," Crichton explained.

Pascoe will compete in five events in London; the women's 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke, 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley.


Pascoe's first day of competition is overnight on Thursday (NZT).