Bunbury swimmer Alex Saffy receives 2021 Wally Foreman Foundation Scholarship

"Just keep at it": 15-year-old para-swimmer Alex Saffy has received the 2021 Wally Foreman Foundation Scholarship. Photo: Pip Waller.

Four years ago, Alex Saffy noticed something was different about his body.

As one of his feet started to curve, he struggled to bounce on a trampoline and would often trip over when running.

After visiting a neurologist, 15-year-old Saffy said he was "really surprised" to be diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy and myotonic dystrophy (muscle weakness).

"There's no history of the disorder in my family and the doctor thought it was genetic but they couldn't seem to find anything, so I'm not really sure where it came from,

"I guess I started something in my family tree," Saffy laughed.

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His cerebral palsy means Saffy swims with a slight weakness to the lower half of his body, resulting in one of his feet crossing over the other.

As an avid hockey and rugby player who also enjoys surf life saving, Saffy switched to swimming as his sport of choice as his disorder progressed.

He joined the Bunbury Swimming Club nine years ago, and competed in able bodied events up until 2020, as he began to struggle with keeping steady on the blocks.

He now competes in the "para" events as his disorder changes, mainly in butterfly and freestyle.

To support his swimming career, Saffy was recently awarded the 2021 Wally Foreman Foundation Scholarship.

A lot of people have this negative stereotype that disabled people can't do what "normal" people can, but you can. Just embrace your difference."

Alex Saffy

The scholarship, which aspires to continue the work of sports broadcaster and administrator Wally Foreman, will support Saffy's swimming career with a grant allowing him to attend Perth-based training camps.

Saffy said although he was "very surprised" to receive the scholarship, he was grateful in that it would be a "big help" with his swimming career.

"These school holidays I'll begin going up to Perth for additional training," he said.

"Which will get me ready for a Paralympic training camp on the Sunshine Coast in January, the Open Water Nationals in Adelaide the same month and then my international classification in Melbourne in February."

The Wally Foreman Foundation chair Glen Foreman said Saffy was the type of athlete that the foundation existed to support.

"Alex's dedication is clear in that he has not let anything stand in his way, including competing against able-bodied athletes," Foreman said.

Saffy competing in butterfly. Photo is supplied.

Saffy competing in butterfly. Photo is supplied.

Saffy made the qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics at the International Swimming Trials in Adelaide this year, but was unable to attend.

He is now working towards attending the 2024 Olympics in Paris, where he hopes to be "someone to look up to" for other swimmers with disabilities.

"I've never thought of my disability as a struggle, it was just something I deal with," Saffy said.

"To other disabled swimmers, I'd say just keep at it, because you're not different even if you're disabled. A lot of people have this negative stereotype that disabled people can't do what "normal" people can, but you can. Just embrace your difference."

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