Swimmer Hannah MacLellan heads to Paralympic qualifier

Hannah MacLellan is heading to Miami, Fla. as the only P.E.I. para-swimmer to qualify for an international competition that is also a qualifier for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

MacLellan is the only para-swimmer from P.E.I. to qualify for the 2014 Spring CanAm competition

Hannah MacLellan will compete in Miami in an international swimming competition that is a qualifier for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. 2:14

Hannah MacLellan, 14, is looking forward to lots of time in the pool this week in Miami, Fla., as she prepares to represent Canada in an international para-swimming meet.

MacLellan was the only P.E.I. para-swimmer to qualify for the US Paralympic Spring Swimming Nationals and 2014 Spring CanAm, which are a qualifier for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"I never thought she'd qualify ... at 14," said Hannah's mother, Stephanie Drake. "But she's a great breast-stroker, and she works really hard, and she just loves it."

MacLellan has cerebral palsy, which limits her ability to move her muscles. Despite that, she cycles, rides horseback and has been swimming competitively for four years.

"I just love every part of it," said MacLellan. "The buoyant force in the water keeps me afloat so I don't have to concentrating on walking."

MacLellan and her coach head to Miami on Tuesday.

She will compete against some of the best in the world in the 50 and 100-metre breast-stroke, as well as the 200-metre freestyle.

She's hoping to achieve personal best times.

Her coach, Edie Rogers, said they do not expect to win, just to see what international competition is like.

MacLellan is classified as an s-5 — which measures abilities on a scale of one to 10. She will be the youngest in her division, and is set to compete against some Paralympic athletes.

MacLellan's coach said it's been a long road.

"It was a lot of hard work," Rogers said. "Every step is a challenge, but she is really dogged, and certainly determined. ... She's done really well. I'm very proud of her.

MacLellan was the 2011 Easter Seals Ambassador for P.E.I., raising money and awareness for kids with disabilities. 

Her motto: "Believe in yourself — you'll be amazed at what you can do," a mantra she said she continues to live by as she prepares for her competition.

"I want to do it to the best of my ability," she said.

MacLellan said she hopes to compete for Canada at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo and bring home a Paralympic medal in 2024.