You were originally drawn to Australian Rules football, what inspired your move to swimming?
It was a tough decision to stop playing footy because of the demands on my body, but at the same time I realised that I didn’t want to all of a sudden become a spectator. I attended the Talent Identification program run by the Australian Paralympic Committee and swimming was my strength on the day, so it encouraged me to see how far I could really go with it.
What went through your mind when you found that you’d won a world record at the Australian swimming championships in 2010 and 2011?
It was a relief for me because my coach Brad Harris and I had worked so hard for it during pre-season and I knew it was going to take every ounce of energy for me to pull it off. After relief comes the excitement knowing you’re a world record holder. Although I was so excited on that night, to my disappointment the 100m breastroke is not a Paralympic event, which meant that I had to perfect the 50m Breaststroke, and not the 100m, which has been my toughest challenge yet. So you could imagine the mixed feelings I had!
You hope to make your Paralympic debut at London 2012. Would being an Olympian change you?
(I'm) the happiest man alive. It won’t change me a great deal but it will give me and I hope others great confidence of what can really be achieved when you put in the hard yards. There’s a saying that I’ve come across, “There’s no substitute for hard work” and I’m a great believer with hard work comes success (and in some unfortunate circumstances failures) but either way you’ll benefit from what you’ve put in.
How do you train and strengthen your mental agility as well as working on your physical agility?
I have a very driven family who always do their best to overcome their daily challenges. I can’t help but feed from that sort of energy. When I swam at the Para Pan Pacifics in Canada, I had witnessed other athletes who were less fortunate than I was with respect to their physical capacities. There was an athlete in the championship that could only use her arms to propel her body through the water and she inspired me because she raced in that type of condition. Alex (from my club) helps me with my strength and condition and I would be very feeble if it wasn’t for him.
What motivates you right before a big race?
The amount of support I have from everyone I know. When my family are in the stand cheering for me as loudly as they possibly can it definitely gives me that extra confidence. My coach Brad, who is always so enthusiastic and positive, helps me remain calm. My wonderful club, Melbourne Vicentre, that always supports me during training and competitions. Those are the things that go through my head to motivate me before a big race.
What are you competitive in outside swimming?
I recently downloaded Temple Run, which is an iPhone game and I’m extremely competitive against this poor 12-year-old. I’m currently the highest scorer and it’s going to remain that way (I hope).
What would you say to anyone looking to overcome physical obstacles?
Never to be afraid to give something a go because you’ll gain so much from just the small attempt. It doesn’t always have to be successful. I wasn’t a successful footy player but I gave it my best shot and I loved every second - even some of the bruises I copped! Also, never let your physical appearance discourage you in public because if a person is genuine, they will be more interested in your capabilities rather than your inabilities.
Is there anywhere in London you are most curious/or can’t wait to visit?
I really can’t wait to see the Aquatic Centre and I’ve always wanted to go in the London Eye.
Where/how do you like to holiday?
Our family friends have a houseboat at Lake Eildon. I find it a great place to wind down and have some fun around the water with the family rather than the competitive side of it. I have a goal to one day figure out how I can drive their Jet Ski.
Where will we be seeing you in five years?
If I’m not a Qantas pilot then, I’d like to study sports journalism and assist the AFL broadcasting team or swimming. I would also like to get more involved with the community by assisting others like myself to be involved in sport.
Ahmed Kelly was a passionate AFL player, but in 2008 turned his attention to swimming, because of the toll football had taken on his body. A short year later, Ahmed competed in Darwin at his first international competition, the 2009 Oceania Paralympic Championships. Ahmed went on to set back-to-back World Records at the Australian Championships in 2010 and 2011, for the 100m Breaststroke.
Ahmed hopes to make an impact in future competition by drawing on the strength and support of his mother, brother, and twin sisters. Moira is Ahmed’s, and Ahmed’s brother, Emmanuel’s adopted mother. Moira met the boys at the Baghdad orphanage where they had grown up and brought them back to Australia for medical treatment. Trishna and Krishna are Ahmed’s adopted twin sisters, who provide him with a constant source of courage, as in 2009 the girls were separated in a 27 hour surgery.