From broken foot to a fistful of gold
ONLY 20 weeks before competing in the 2019 NSW multi-class state titles in Sydney, Ben Auckram underwent surgery to have an injured foot re-broken and set.
For most people it would signal time out of competition, but this set-back only made the 15-year-old more determined.
The Lismore teen roared back into his training regime and claimed five gold medals, one for every event he swam in Sydney at the titles last last week.
Modest about his fistful of medals for the 400m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke and 50m backstroke races, Ben admitted he would have been delighted with any place on the podium.
"I was not expecting gold ones - it's pretty good," he said.
"Over the last 12 months I had a set-back and had to have my right foot operated to correct its posture and the doctors had to break bones and then re-set it to put it back together."
The Year 9 Trinity Catholic College student said the six weeks he had to spend on dry land was very frustrating as he was used to an intense training program.
"As soon as I got my cast off, we drove straight to Lismore to the pool at Southern Cross University which we were using at the time," he said.
"For the first couple of weeks training I was definitely feeling pretty bad, but I just got back up to where I was in fitness."
In the past four years Ben joined the Lismore Workers Swim Team, where he found he could leave his spina bifida in the wheelchair and be the best possible version of himself in the pool.
Now the teen has broken local, state and national records in various multi-classes and is regularly approached by youngsters wanting advice on how to improve their swimming performance.
"It's a weird feeling because it used to be me asking people for advice," he said with a smile.
"Lots of younger swimmers at the state titles were asking me questions."
Next up Ben will join other talented multi-class swimmers Aiden Yourell and McKinley Arnison from the Lismore Workers Swim Team at the Australian Short Course Championship in Melbourne at the end of the month.
"It's an open-age carnival, there's no age divisions," he said.