Ugandan Paralympian enjoys busting stereotypes. Kukundakwe never imagined that she would compete on a global stage.

KAMPALA : At just 14 she was the youngest paralympian at the Tokyo Games.

And Ugandan swimmer Hasnah Kukundakwe faces an equally tough test next year in Paris, but the 16-year-old said she is used to smashing stereotypes - starting with her own mum.

Born without her right forearm and with an impairment to her left hand, Kukundakwe was three years old when she began paddling in a pool in her local kindergarten.

'' I would just go there, play around, just beat around the water, and I felt nice. I love being in the water,'' she said.

Her mother, however, wasn't so enthusiastic.

'' In the beginning my mum wasn't supportive......... because she was worried that I won't be able to swim,'' Kukundakwe told AFP.

'' After realising I wasn't going to stop going into the water, she eventually gave in,'' Kukundakwe said on the sidelines of a training session in a suburb of Uganda's capital Kampala.

She soon won her first contest, aged nine, racing past able-bodied swimmers.

''It opened my mum's eyes that I would do better,'' she said, her face lighting up as she recalled the victory.

Her mother, Hashima Patience Batamuriza, who is now her manager, allowed her to stop using floatation vests, paving the way for a journey that has taken Kukundakwe to the Olympics.

The teenager never imagined that she would compete on a global stage, despite spending hours in the water every week.

'' It was something I had not looked into because I didn't know para swimming ever existed or .......... sports for people with disabilities like me,'' she said.

A trip to Kenya's capital - her first time taking a flight - proved to be a tumbling block.

Prior to that, the 11 year-old had only practised alongside able-bodied swimmers.

In Nairobi, she was surrounded by other disabled athletes.

'' I started feeling comfortable with myself. '' [AFP]


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