By ETHAN BARON -- Calgary Sun
Jessica Sloan went Down Under and ended up on top of the world.
The 17-year-old Calgary swimmer won six gold medals in the Paralympic Games, which wrapped up on Sunday.
With each gold, she set a world record.
"I came into the meet with high expectations, but fulfilling them is a really good feeling," said Sloan in a phone call from Sydney.
"When you set your goals high and reach them it's a really good feeling."
Sloan has been missing most of her left hand since birth.
She took gold in the 100-metre and 50-metre freestyle, the 100-metre breaststroke, the 200-metre individual medley and the medley and freestyle relays.
She plans to travel for a few months in Australia, then return home and start training again, possibly with an eye toward the 2004 Olympics for the able-bodied.
"The dream to one day compete in both the Paralympics and the Olympics is definitely something to think about," said Sloan, who plans to compete in the Canadian national championship for able-bodied swimmers in 2001.
She credits her success to a love of swimming. "You have to have a passion for the sport," she said.
Though her performance has dazzled Canadians and Australians alike, Sloan's experience in Sydney with the rest of the Canadian team had a profound personal impact.
"Right now I'm the one that's being inspired," she said from Sydney.
"This whole team has done so well over here."
Disabled athletes must build on the strengths they have to make up for what their bodies lack, she said.
"It's all about adaptation," she said. "It's not a matter of having all four limbs. You can adapt to anything, do anything with what you've got."
Sloan graduated from high school last year, and plans to attend the University of Calgary, studying business and perhaps taking art courses.