Tokyo bound

Ashley Van Rijswijk proudly holds her Tokyo 2021 boarding pass after being named in the Swimming Australia Paralympics squad.

Ashley Van Rijswijk qualifies for Tokyo 2021 Paralympics

Tumut swimmer Ashley Van Rijswijk went from feeling the anguish of believing she had missed selection in the Swimming Australia Tokyo 2021 Paralympic squad, to the elation of being called up at the eleventh hour. 

Van Rijswijk, a S14 classified swimmer, swam 1:17.36 in the heats of the 100m breaststroke to qualify fastest for the final, before finishing runner up when swimming 1:17.73 in the final, missing the Tokyo 2021 qualifying time by a mere 11 hundredths of a second. 

On Wednesday night, the 20-year-old was left wondering what may have been as she started preparations for the Paris 2024 Paralympics, watching the announcement of the Paralympic team on television, before a last-minute phone call changed her life. 

According to her father, Craig Van Rijswijk, it was Swimming Australia on the other end of the phone call.

“We were just sitting there and watching the swimming at our place in Adelaide, and we got a phone call at 8.05pm,” Mr Van Rijswijk said. 

“We were told Ash had good news, and we kind of knew what they meant, but we had to put our clothes and swimming uniforms on and race to the pool.

“Where we are staying, it’s a 20-minute drive to the pool, so we had to rush.”

Upon arrival to the South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre, Van Rijswijk was quickly announced in the 32-swimmer Australian side, although the swimmer and her family were still unsure of what event she had qualified for. 

“We got there, and she did the official announcement and was handed her ceremonial boarding pass to Tokyo,” Mr Van Rijswijk said. 

“It was a bit of a surprise and to be honest, we don’t know why she was picked, and we don’t know what event she will be swimming in – we just know she is in the Australian team.”

The proud father admitted it was a whirlwind of feelings when talking to the Tumut and Adelong Times on Wednesday evening. 

“We went from lots of tears on the Tuesday, to today, which has seen at complete reversal,” Mr Van Rijswijk said.

“She went from thinking she hadn’t qualified, to being picked tonight, which was awesome and unexpected.”

The young swimmer, who kicked off her career with Tumut Swimming Club, before joining Wagga Swimming Club, will find out everything she needs to know on Thursday when attending a Swimming Australia Paralympic orientation. 

“She will go to a team orientation meeting and find out what’s happening from there,” Mr Van Rijswijk said.

“We are all very excited.”