MATTHEW Haanappel can't do all the things that most people take for granted. But when it comes to swimming, he knows he can take on the world.
The Croydon Hills teenager, who was born with cerebral palsy after a prenatal stroke, has been selected for his first Australian Paralympic team. "It feels fantastic but I'm still waiting for it to sink in. I just can't believe I'm actually going."
The 18-year-old has qualified for a number of events, including the 200m individual medley, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 50m butterfly and his pet event, the 50m freestyle, in which he is ranked fourth in the world for his classification.
Haanappel has just been reclassified from a 7 to a 6 (category 1 disabled athletes are the most severely disabled and 10 the least disabled). "It means I'll compete against people that have the same ability as me, but not necessarily the same disability as me," Haanappel says.
It's a different situation to his regular events in Australia, where athletes compete together, regardless of classification.
Haanappel even swims in able-bodied events in Melbourne and says that's an important part of how he defines himself. "I tend to block out the disabled aspect of it all," he says. "I put the swimming before the disability."
His parents Kathy and Shane will be in London to cheer him on, along with his grandmother and possibly one other relative - first cousin and Olympian Cadel Evans.