Maddi Elliott is learning to drive, still at school and not yet old enough to order drinks, but in her second Paralympic Games she wants to put recent controversial classification issues behind her and claim a maiden individual gold medal.
The Gillieston Heights swimmer, who turns 18 in November, hits the water on day one of competition in Rio after the opening ceremony kick starts proceedings on Thursday morning (AEST).
Elliott, who has cerebral palsy, will compete in five solo events as well as two potential relays but after recent testing in Brazil she remains in the S8 class.
There have been calls for the International Paralympic Committee to review the classification of athletes.
“It has been a really long process, and a difficult one as well,” Elliott said.
“A statement came out the other day from the IPC showing over 80 cases from 40 different countries and six sports, without one intentional misrepresentation.”
Elliott was brought into question after an eight-second difference between races at the IPC World Championships in Glasgow last year.
She had initially been changed to the S9 class rather than her normal section, but was switched back during the meet and produced a faster time.
“S8 is for two limbs affected and S9 is for one limb affected,” Elliott said.
“I have been in the S8 classification my whole life, since I was about eight years old.”
She scooped the London pool in the S8 section four years ago, becoming Australia’s youngest Paralympic medalist.
The then 13-year-old clinched gold in the women’s 4x100 metre freestyle relay (34 points), silver in the 50m freestyle and bronze in both the 100 and 400 freestyle races.
Now, having achieved world records, world titles and Commonwealth Games gold, as well as a Medal of the Order of Australia, she wants to stand atop of the Paralympic podium by herself.
“It would mean the world to me,” the year 12 student at Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College said. “To have an individual gold medal around my neck, standing on that podium, with a world record beside my name, it would be just unreal. I’m hoping that happens.”
She will be favourite in the 100m freestyle and wants to eclipse her own world record of one minute, 4.71 seconds. That is third (September 12) on her program, but she begins with the 400m freestyle (Thursday, 11pm).
The Hunter contingent also includes fellow swimmer Prue Watt, track and field crew Kurt Fearnley, Christie Dawes, Rheed McCracken and Erin Cleaver, sailor Liesl Tesch, equestrian Lisa Martin and triathlete Katie Kelly.
AAP reports: On the eve of the Rio Paralympics organisers say they are selling 40,000 tickets a day and a spirit of optimism now pervades the cash-strapped event.
"It's helped by the fact that the Brazilian team did so well in the final weekend of the Olympics," said International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence on Tuesday.
"It gave the Cariocas a flavor of what they can expect here in Rio with the Brazilian team chasing a top five finish in the medals table."
Spence and Mario Andrada, the spokesman for the local organising committee gave an upbeat assessment of a Games that faced severe budget shortfalls and concerns about accessibility for the disabled athletes.
They tried to assure the world that preparations are going smoothly, though neither promised the best Paralympics ever, four years after a games in London that were considered a turning point in sports for people with disabilities.
"It's impossible in the modern era to have a glitch-free games - you haven't seen any in history," Andrada said.
"As far as Rio 2016 is concerned, we hope to learn from the IPC as much as we learn from the IOC. We hope we can react to our glitches and, eventually, our mistakes as fast as we did during the Olympic Games."
Ticket sales had reached 1.6 million and were expected to overtake the 2008 Beijing tally of 1.7 million, making Rio the second best-attended Paralympics behind London 2012, according to Spence.
After over a month delay, travel grants were finally being paid on Tuesday for all of the countries, easing a worry that some nations couldn't afford to send athletes to Rio.
After the news conference, Spence said there were now athletes from 159 countries on the ground in Brazil, plus two "independent" refugee athletes.
Eighty-four Russian athletes lost their bid to compete as individuals on Tuesday in a German court ruling, a legal bid that followed the IPC's ban on the entire Russian team for systematic doping.