AS the nation celebrates the success of gold medal Olympian, 19-year-old Keshorn Walcott, another teenager has promised to work hard to secure a medal when she competes at the London 2012 Paralympics later this month.
Physically challenged national swimmer Shanntol Ince will be competing in the 400-metre freestyle, 100-metre butterfly, and 100-metre backstroke events.
Shanntol, the Express Individual of the Year 2011, was born with a right leg significantly shorter than the left, but has astounded many by excelling in the pool.
The 17-year-old created history by becoming the country's first Paralympic athlete to compete at last year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.
She also won bronze medals at the Parapan Games held in Guadalajara, Mexico last November in the 100m backstroke and 100m freestyle.
Ince has also excelled at academics, passing all the subjects she wrote for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination this year.
Ince, of Claxton Bay, is also an ambassador in the Ministry of the People and Social Development Disability Programme where she is chosen to act as a spokesperson for persons with disabilities.
The Paralympics is held immediately following the Olympics and involves athletes with physical disabilities, including those with mobility and visual impairment, and amputees.
Ince told the Express yesterday that it was exciting and nerve-racking to have seen the athletes compete in the Olympics, and she was inspired by each effort.
She said Walcott's gold medal javelin throw "was pretty amazing to me".
Ince, who spoke with the Express from her home yesterday, said, "words can't describe how I feel right now. I feel very excited and nervous.
But I am prepared. I have been training hard. I will try my best. I am going to do my best.
Yes I am looking for gold but that is not my main focus. My main focus is to be the best I can, and not try to put too much pressure on myself because I can get really nervous at times, especially while waiting."
The last time this country won precious metal was at the New York 1984 Paralympics.
In that year, Rachael Marshall, whose hometown is Toco, won two gold medals in javelin throw and shot put, and a bronze in the 100 metres freestyle in swimming.
Marshall is the only Trinidad and Tobago national to win medals at the Paralympics the two times this country participated. This year will be the third time the country is participating in the Paralympics, and the first in 24 years.
Ince said she had increased her training from two hours, six days a week, to training for four hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in addition to the two hours on the other days.
She trains with the Marlins Swim Club with sessions at the 50 metre pool at St Anthony's College in Westmoorings. The one other Paralympic athlete competing in London is visually impaired Carlos Greene, in the shot put and discus throwing events.
The two athletes leave for the competition on August 24 and return on September 11.
The games officially begin on August 27 and end on September 9.
Five persons will accompany the athletes on the journey, among them president of Trinidad and Tobago Paralympics Committee, Kenneth McKell, his wife Debra McKell who is the Committee's administrative officer, and coaches Franz Huggins and Lester Osouna.
Ince's father St Paul Ince said although he would not be able to travel to London to be with his daughter, he would be watching every event on television.
He added, "It is indeed and honour for her to be able to reach that far."
By Sue-Ann Wayow