By Tom Degun
January 21 - Paralympic hopeful Eleni Papadopoulos (pictured), the swimmer rated as one of Britain’s hottest prospects for London 2012, claimed that she is fully focused on competing at the Games despite a heavy academic workload.
The 17-year-old from Gateshead, who has limited mobility in her arm after breaking it when she was six years old, made her international debut at the European Championships in Reykjavik last October and impressively claimed two silver medals despite competing against far more experienced athletes.
Papadopoulos is also the British and European record holder in the 100 and 200 metres S10 butterfly but must balance her swimming with her studies at Newcastle Royal Grammar School as she is hoping to attend University this September.
However, the swimming starlet - whose great grandfather represented the England rugby team and whose mother played badminton for Northern Ireland - claimed that she will not let her studies affect her chances of making the British team ahead of the London 2012 Paralympics.
Papadopoulos told insideworldparasport: "It’s all about finding a balance and although I have two major commitments and cannot put one before the other, my coaches and teachers have been fantastic in allowing me to do the two together.
“It means making a lot of sacrifices like not going out every Saturday night but I am so focused on qualifying to compete at the London 2012 Paralympics that I am willing to make those sacrifices.
"I am just so excited about London 2012.
"I remember when we first won the right to host the Games [in 2005]; London 2012 seemed so far away.
"But now, there are less than 1,000 days to go which I am sure will fly by and having seen how amazing the Aquatics Centre in Stratford will look; my mind is already on competing there in front of a home crowd."
Papadopoulos, who won the prestigious Disabled Sports Person of the Year award at the North East Sports Awards last November (pictured), is aware that she is widely tipped to be a huge star in 2012 but claims she pays little attention to such comments.
The Sunderland swimmer said: "I do know that there is already a bit of pressure on me with people saying: 'You could be one of the potential superstars at the 2012 Paralympics'.
"But that is something I try to ignore.
"You just have to be professional, get on with your work in the pool to try and make the British team which is not easy.
"We are one of the strongest disability swimming nations in the world and there is a friendly but strong rivalry just to make the team.
"But I think you need that rivalry and that competition because if you are the only one in your sport, there isn’t a lot of point in doing it.
"Strong competition keeps you motivated, keeps you on your toes and means that you don’t take your place on the team for granted."
Papadopoulos also revealed how pleased she is that because London is hosting the Paralympics in 2012, disability sport is getting more coverage from major media outlets and more people are getting interested in it.
She said: "I am so glad that London is hosting the Games in 2012 because it means that disability sport is getting a huge amount of media attention in this country.
"Almost every event I am aiming to compete at in the next two years is a stepping stone to the Games because the Paralympics are such a huge event now.
"The Paralympics may not be as big as the Olympics yet but with London hosting the Games, I am sure that more and more people will be watching disability sport before, during and after the Games.
"And if that is the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympics; that is fantastic."
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