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A para-swimmer with Winnipeg roots is in Australia this week competing on behalf of Team Canada.

Shelby Newkirk, 22, only first started swimming competitively in 2012 with the Para Storm Swim Club in Winnipeg. This week, she's in Cairns, Australia, competing as part of Team Canada in the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships.shelby INSETDespite her physical limitations, Newkirk currently holds 11 Canadian records and two world records in para-swimming. (Supplied)

"It's amazing," shared the swimmer, "the buzz on the team is really electric today, we're all really excited so it's going to be fun."

Growing up, Newkirk competed in a wide variety of sports through school until the age of 13 when her physical abilities began to change.

Diagnosed with Dystonia, a movement disorder, it quickly became apparent that sports such as basketball and volleyball, which Newkirk had previously competed in, were no longer an option for her. Then, Newkirk and her parents thought of swimming.

"The moment I was in it, I found that I could still be competitive, that I could still push myself and I just fell in love with it and haven't stopped."

Not only does swimming provide Newkirk with the ability to compete, it also gives her back freedom of movement.

"On land, I walk [with] a hands-free crutch, but most of the time I use a wheelchair now," Newkirk says, "but when I'm in the water, I don't need that and I can just use whatever I have to swim.

"I love really pushing myself as far as I can."

As Newkirk's diagnosis is progressive, she says it can be hard to see her own body becoming more limited as time passes.

"I always see the deterioration in my body," the swimmer explained. "The fact that I'm able to do a competitive sport where I can constantly try to get better times and constantly try to do better than I did the day previous is absolutely amazing."

Newkirk's love of the sport and passion for competition is especially evident in her results. The para-swimmer currently holds 11 Canadian, two American, and two world records, primarily in the backstroke (50-, 100-, and 200-meters) and breaststroke events.

"It's been incredible, it's a lot of hard work, for sure." The swimmer says she's in the water almost every day and trains multiple times a week on land as well. She hopes the swimming championships will be a positive reflection of her efforts this year, and maybe even lead to a few more records in her name. 

Newkirk is especially looking forward to competing in the 100-meter backstroke, her main event.

"I'm really proud with how far I've come this year."

At the root of everything she's accomplished, however, Newkirk credits her faith with getting her through both the times of difficulty and the times of joy that she's experienced.

"I've definitely really had to rely on it. When I was first diagnosed, I was pretty lost, just because everything kind of changed in an instant. Back then I didn't know it was progressive, I didn't know that it would be permanent, there were just a lot of unknowns at that point.

"I've really just had to rely on God... and rely on people around me that bring me closer to Him."

A small group of those on Team Canada, including Newkirk, make a point of attending church together on Sunday when travelling for competitions. "It's just been amazing to have that support. I know that they're there to talk to and to have that Christian grounding group, while I'm here, is absolutely amazing."

Verses with a theme around strength have also helped to encourage Newkirk throughout her journey. "You can do all things through Him who strengthens you, and I always find that so encouraging, because when I'm having a day when I don't think that I can do it, I know that I don't have to because I can rely on God and he can really support me through that."

Since arriving for the competition, Newkirk says there hasn't been much time to sight-see, but she has been able to check out the local church.

"I've actually gone to Hillsong Church a couple of times, which is really cool."

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