Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Queen’s student competing for Team Canada at World Para Swimming Championships

Jessica Tinney, a fourth-year kinesiology student, has excelled at balancing academics, work, and athletics.

Jessica Tinney swims in a competitive pool.
Jessica Tinney, a fourth-year kinesiology student at Queen’s, will be competing at the World Para Swimming Championships being hosted June 12-18 in Madeira, Portugal. (Supplied Photo) 

Jessica Tinney, a fourth-year kinesiology student at Queen’s and Athletics and Recreation employee, has qualified for the World Para Swimming Championships. After competing in trials and breaking the Canadian record in the individual medley, she flew from Victoria, BC, back to Kingston the next day to write her final exams.

Tinney has cerebral palsy and staying active has always been important to her and her health. She started swimming when she was eight, as part of her physiotherapy. She enjoyed it so much that swimming became her main form of being active, and she began competing when she was 13.

Her experiences with physiotherapy and cerebral palsy are part of the reason she came to Queen’s to study kinesiology, she explains.

“With my disability, I wanted to learn more about how the body works,” she says. “I’ve always been surrounded by a huge medical support team, so making sense of the language and concepts around me and being able to apply that to my education has been interesting.”

With training and competitions, being a full-time student, an ARC employee and a research assistant, Tinney’s schedule is packed. In order to succeed, she has learned that it is important to focus on one thing at a time.

“I’ve learned you really have to be in the moment. Nothing good ever comes from trying to outline a research paper while you’re at practice,” she says. “Instead, I put all my focus into the one thing that I’m doing for the whole time.”

Tinney says that her four years at Queen’s, and her experiences with professors and peers, has been integral to her success with athletics and academics.

“I’ve been very fortunate with the professors I’ve had that were so accommodating,” she says.

Through the relationships she has built with other students, she has found a great deal of confidence, which she says has undoubtedly translated into her success in the pool.

Looking at the larger sports picture Tinney points out the need for better representation of athletes with disabilities.

“People work just as hard to go to the Paralympics as they do for the Olympics, and I think showing that to the world is important,” she says. “No matter what your background or ability is, if you compete in a sport and you identify as an athlete, you are an athlete first before anything else. A sport really doesn’t change much. I’m swimming in a pool, doing the same events as someone else who is able-bodied.”

Tinney is facing another tight turn around as she balances her academics and athletics. She will be competing in the world championships which are being hosted June 12-18 in Madeira, Portugal. The day after she returns to Canada from the championships she will be back in Kingston to celebrate convocation.