For Jason Hooper, the World Masters Games in New Zealand will be his swansong in competitive swimming.
After 26 years in disabled sport and 17 as a swimmer, the 50-year-old from Mount Druitt said it’s time to hang up the goggles.
“Being a disabled sportsman, it’s probably the best move I’ve ever made,” he said.
“I’ve matured more because of it and it’s just unreal. I wouldn’t change anything for the world and I’d recommend disabled sports to anyone.”
Hooper has Apert syndrome, which is a congenital disorder that affects the development of the skull, face, hands and feet.
It hasn’t slowed him down though, starting in disabled sport in 1990 as a runner.
His swimming career began in 1998 when he took a ‘learn to swim’ class, which he said was the best thing he’d ever done.
Now set for his second World Masters Games with more than 150 gold medals under his belt in his career, Hooper is set to go out on top.
“If you said to me when I was running that I would be retiring as a 50-year-old swimmer at the world titles, I would have laughed at you and said you’re a comedian,” he said.
“To do this for so long, you’ve got to do the work and be dedicated and disciplined.”
Set to race in five events – 50m, 100m, 200m, 800m freestyle and 50m breaststroke – Hooper said he wanted to put everything into his final competition.
He admitted he had a disappointing meet at last October’s state championships. But he took the disappointment in his stride and has shed 12kg for the masters.
“There is no pressure on me,” Hooper said.
“I’m going over and the people who are behind me in Sydney know that after the state titles last year, I busted my butt getting fit.”
As to what’s next, Hooper said there is a big question mark but is eager to help grow the profile of disabled swimming in the local area.
“Disabled swimming has been a blessing,” he said.
“I never made the Paralympic squad but it never stopped me from trying.
“I just want to help people improve.”
The World Masters Games runs April 21-30 in Auckland, New Zealand.