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The start of something extraordinary

Paralympic swimmer named youth award finalist

Champion Paralympic swimmer Mary Fisher (21) has been selected as a finalist in the ‘Youth Award’ category in the 2014 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of disabled Kiwis.

Mary was born legally blind due to the eye condition Aniridia, meaning the iris is absent and both eyes are underdeveloped. She can perceive some changes in light.

Her undeniable talent has seen Mary achieve phenomenal success in Para-Swimming – a gold medal, two silvers and a bronze at the London Paralympics, five gold medals and a silver at the IPC World Championships in Montreal last year and six gold medals at this year’s Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in California.

Mary’s achievements in the pool led to her being made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit last year. Swimming may have provided the accolades for Mary, but she says perhaps a greater reward is her new found sense of purpose.

“Personally, success has made me a more confident and determined person. But something I’ve unexpectedly relished is the opportunity to speak to schools and the community,” she says.

Mary is overflowing with support and encouragement for other blind and disabled youth. In between her gruelling training programme and competitive events, she works with young developing Para-Swimmers just beginning their Paralympic journey.

Mary has also been a youth mentor at the Blind Foundation since 2007, working with vision-impaired teenagers and their families – even giving them an insight into the possibilities of independent living by inviting them to visit her flat.

She still finds time to study towards a BA in Psychology and Human Development at Massey University, sing in the Wellington Community Choir and play the Mbira (the Zimbabwean thumb piano).

Making it to the finals of the Attitude Awards is testament to her ability to embrace her disability and live life to the fullest. She will find out if she has won the award at a black-tie gala on World Disability Day, December 3 at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre.

There are eight categories in the 2014 Attitude Awards: Sport Performer of the Year, Courage in Sport, Artistic Achievement, Youth, Spirit of Attitude, the Attitude ACC Employer Award, Making a Difference Award and the inaugural Attitude Junior Award. The overall winner of the Attitude ACC Supreme Award is selected from the category winners and a People’s Choice winner and a Hall of Fame inductee are also announced on the night.

You can visit AttitudeLive.com in early November to see the short films of the finalists and to vote for the person most deserving of the coveted ‘People’s Choice Award.’

For tickets to the Attitude Awards gala evening on Dec 3 contact Sue Wales-Earl at sue@attitudeawards.org or phone 09 377 6280.