St Patrick’s College Sutherland student Alex Tuckfield has swum into the history books after winning bronze in the Men’s 400m Freestyle S9 at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

In what was his Paralympics debut, the 16-year-old recorded a personal best time of 4:13:54 to finish on the podium.

Tuckfield, one of Australia’s youngest athletes at the Games, edged out countryman Brenden Hall for the bronze while fellow Aussie and Tuckfield’s training partner, Martin William, claimed the gold medal.

The performance caps off a meteoric rise for the former St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Como student, who only began swimming at the age of 10.

Eyes on the prize

In the heats, the Year 11 student announced himself as a genuine medal chance when he swam the fastest qualifying time of 4:14:26, beating his previous personal best by 1.8 seconds.

In a competitive final that saw the Paralympic record fall, Tuckfield swam faster again to win bronze behind William and silver medallist Ugo Didier from France.

Tuckfield, who has cerebral palsy, also competed in the Men’s 50m Freestyle S9, finishing 7th in his heat.

The Sutherland Shire local said the Tokyo experience is one that he’ll never forget.

“I honestly didn’t think that I’d win a medal in my first event, at my first international meet, in my first international race,” Tuckfield said.

“I’d been training these past weeks the best I ever have been so I knew I could post something very good.”

“But still… I touch the wall, I turn around and I look at the board and I’m just shocked” – Alex Tuckfield

St Pat's student Alex Tuckfield

The St Pat’s student was one of Australia’s youngest athletes at the Games

Tuckfield says one of the most special things about his time in Japan was the camaraderie among the Australian team.

“I’ve got a really sore throat from all the cheering I’ve been doing lately!” Tuckfield said.

“We’re all very team-driven – we’re staying in a tight space because of COVID and I think that’s brought us together a bit more.”

Having now tasted Paralympic success, Tuckfield says he’s already eyeing off another medal tilt at Paris in 2024.

“I am planning to go to Paris… I cannot wait to see what a fully-fledged Games without COVID would be like.”

Support from home

Alex’s mother, Agnes Tuckfield, said the family were all incredibly proud of what their swimming superstar was able to achieve.

“We had a Zoom meeting set up with all our friends on one screen and Alex racing on the other screen,” Mrs Tuckfield said.

“We always hoped for a medal but we were just hoping he’d get to the final!

“We’re still on cloud nine – he did us proud” – Agnes Tuckfield

Alex Tuckfield on the podium

Tuckfield stands on the podium in Tokyo

St Patrick’s Principal, Janine Kenney, said the whole school community was cheering for Tuckfield.

“To be selected to represent Australia, to break his PB in his heat and then to go on to win a bronze medal is an amazing achievement,” said Ms Kenney.

“We are so excited for him as he has worked so hard for this and we could not be prouder.”