THE Olympic movement has reached deep into Caboolture this school term, throwing up two gold medallists in Rio.
A few weeks back, St Columban’s College roared as former student Evania Pelite scored a try in Australia’s triumph over New Zealand in the women’s rugby gold-medal game in Rio.
The school cheered again last week as Year 12 student Lakeisha Patterson claimed Australia’s first gold medal at the Paralympics.
Lakeisha, also known by her nickname “Lucky”, set a world record as she surged to victory in the women’s 400m S8 freestyle final.
She overcame previous record holder and her idol Jessica Long in one of those Paralympic stories that stirs the emotions.
The American’s congratulatory words to Lakeisha reflected the spirit of the Games.
“Jess said she was really proud of me and can’t believe how well I’ve done, and I really appreciated that,” Lakeisha said.
“I did not think my first Games would end up like this.”
Lakeisha began swimming at age three as a form of physical therapy to help with cerebral palsy.
The 17-year-old now stretches her day from 4am to 8pm as she blends her swimming with study.
It’s a hectic schedule but Lakeisha still finds time to do the things that teenagers enjoy, including painting her fingernails green and gold for her big swim meets.
“She displays great commitment to her swimming and great commitment to her school work,” acting principal Cathy Galvin said.
“She instils in the college the sense that anything is possible with hard work and determination.
“She works very hard to balance her school commitments and her sporting commitments.
“She is a very positive role model and a good ambassador for an area where the students do not always feel that they can achieve to this level.
“She has really grown in confidence and pride in herself and is much more outgoing as she has matured.”
Ms Galvin said Lakeisha’s younger sister was also at the college, helping to share the excitement of a major sporting achievement.
“We can all share in her achievements – we take some pride in how we have supported her for five years in ways such as our Mentor Academy Program where we support all our high-achieving sport/cultural students,” she said.
Brisbane Catholic Education acting executive director Doug Ashleigh congratulated Lakeisha and her huge support base at St Columban’s on behalf of the BCE community of schools.
“What an inspiration to our BCE community she is,” he said.