The young swimming star is one of four recipients of the 2021/22 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship which will help support the Para-athlete towards qualifying for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
It has been a whirlwind beginning to the swimming journey of Alex Tuckfield, one of the latest four Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients.
In fact, a whirlwind that began out of the water and on the land when Alex was a cross country runner.
The teenager from Bonnet Bay, south of Sydney, was a talented runner qualifying for the junior nationals in cross country, but the activity “started not to work” with Alex’s cerebral palsy, which saw him take to the pool as a form of rehabilitation.
He wasn’t expecting just five years later he would be calling himself a Paralympic medallist.
“Running just started not to work with my CP and one of the therapies was to swim,” Alex said.
“And I started enjoying swimming a hell of a lot more [than running] and next thing you know I am in Tokyo.”
Showing promise immediately in the water, Alex quickly rose through the New South Wales ranks and earned a spot on the national Para-Dolphins Development Squad.
The 16-year-old’s efforts saw him compete at the 2020 Hancock Prospecting Australian Virtual Short Course, where he set a world record in the S9 class when he placed second in the Men’s 200m Freestyle Multi Class event, touching the wall with a time of 2:01.41.
At the 2021 Australian Swimming Trials, he placed second in the S9 400m Freestyle, securing his ticket to Tokyo.
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It had been a hard road to Tokyo for Alex, like many athletes around Australia and the world, the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions to Alex’s training with the closure of his training pool, the youngster had to practice in the ocean to continue to sharpen his skills.
“I was waking up at four o’clock in the mornings in winter,” Alex said.
“A wetsuit didn’t really help with the cold.”
Alex’s father David, recalls it was a “hectic” period for the youngster who was hellbent on making the team.
“Alex was swimming in the dark… you couldn’t see,” David said.
“We didn’t have him a triathlon wetsuit or anything like that, he was using an old surfing wetsuit, and Alex would get out of the water and the whole ocean would fall out.
“He was spending hours at a time in there, but you know, he kept moving.”
It was far from the ideal preparation to his trials and his first Paralympics, but Alex’s determination and hard work paid off with his superb swim in the men’s S9 400m freestyle final to claim the bronze medal in his international debut.
Alex finished just behind his mate William Martin who claimed gold, and ahead of one of his heroes in three-time Commonwealth Games medallist Brenden Hall.
Winning his first Paralympic medal and being in the Dolphins team environment has spurned Alex on for the next stage of his career.
“Just being around the whole Dolphins team, coming into the Games I didn’t really know most of the team that well… but the majority of the team was new to me, so I was just making friends with everyone and making sure that I talked to everyone,” Alex said.
“Now I have everyone added on socials and keep in contact with everyone, the team environment was bloody amazing… it was all very supportive.”
Returning home as a Paralympic medallist, Alex will spend the rest of the year focusing on completing his schooling, but his attentions will soon start to turn to the 2022 World Para-swimming Championships and then the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“I am looking forward to making the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships next year because after making the Tokyo team it just shows me that I really love being in swimming and the whole team environment,” Alex said.
“To think there are more competitions [in the future], I don’t want to see myself missing out and I want to make sure I am on the teams.”
One technique that Alex employs that is going to get him into the teams is his passion for the metal band Tool.
The Los Angeles musicians known for their complex musical releases and cult following, has been used as a tool for Alex’s training and focus when he is in the water.
“I don’t really swim with nothing in my mind, there is always got to be something in my mind, and one of the things is music,” Alex said.
“It just happened that whenever I was thinking about the music of Tool… because I have all of their songs pretty well defined… it would just boost my adrenalin.
“It helps me swimming as fast as I can.”
There will be plenty of Tool played between now and early next year to set Alex on track towards qualifying for the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The Birmingham Games will feature the largest Para-sport program in Commonwealth Games history, including the men’s S9 100m backstroke category, a category Alex has not identified as his strongest stroked but one he has embraced at getting better at ahead of taking on some of the world’s best Para-swimming.
Receiving the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship will assist Alex in his journey towards the Games.
KURT FEARNLEY SCHOLARSHIP CONTINUES TO SUPPORT NEXT GENERATION OF PARA-SPORT STARS
Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of New South Wales welcome the next class of Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipients who are targeting the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.READ MORE
The Kurt Fearnley Scholarship is a joint venture between Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW.
The Carbine Club has a proud tradition of supporting junior sport in New South Wales and the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship furthers this commitment to best enable the latest four young Para-sport athletes to reach their goals of representing Australia at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Evoking the spirit of the Carbine Club, which celebrates sporting endeavour and thus recognises that winning is important, but grace and courage also matter.
Traits which have been exhibited by the four deserving young stars in the latest class of the scholarship initiative, Para-sport young stars like Alex Tuckfield.
Commonwealth Games Australia are thrilled to have Alex Tuckfield as part of the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship Program and are excited to follow along as he chases his sporting dreams and ambitions.