De Pippo scores gold at Can-Am Championship

Cranbrook para-athlete swims to first-place finish at 2016 Can-Am Para-swimming Championship in Gatineau, Que.

Jennifer De Pippo poses with her hold medal after winning the 800-metre freestyle at the 2016 Can-Am Para-swimming Championship in Gatineau.

Jennifer De Pippo poses with her hold medal after winning the 800-metre freestyle at the 2016 Can-Am Para-swimming Championship in Gatineau.

Cranbrook’s Jennifer De Pippo is golden after staking out a first-place finish in the 800-metre freestyle swim at the 2016 Speedo Can-Am Para-swimming Championship in Gatineau, Que. (July 15 to 17).

“I did all I could to get myself ready,” De Pippo said Tuesday afternoon. “My coach says, ‘Don’t work hard, work smart.’ So, I worked smart and in the end it paid off.

“I wasn’t nervous because I just took every swim as it came. I knew I was ready and the results proved it.”

In the 800-m freestyle, De Pippo set a personal best, breaking the 13-minute mark to claim gold in 12:57.

“I was so excited for my first gold medal,” De Pippo said. “I worked hard for it and my hard work is finally getting recognized. It’s just an incentive for me to keep on going.”

De Pippo also earned a top-five finish in the 400-m freestyle, coming in at 6:30.08. Her time of 6:25.14 in the 400-m freestyle preliminary ranked as a new personal best.

The 29-year-old Cranbrook native also registered personal bests in the 50-m freestyle (00:36.56), 100-m freestyle (1:22.33) and 200-m freestyle (3:06.40).

“All the times I accomplished for the free [swims] were personal bests,” De Pippo said. “The breaststroke is still a work in progress for me. With that said, I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me for all four strokes.”

With the Gatineau Can-Am event in the books, De Pippo is going to rest up through the remaining summer months before beginning training once again in September. Outside of her daily two-hour pool sessions, De Pippo credits healthy eating routines and regular work in the gym for helping her get this far to date. And she doesn’t plan on straying from that recipe for success.

Next on her list of events is the 2017 Speedo Can-Am Para-swimming Championship, scheduled for March 30 to April 2, 2017, in Windsor, Ont. From there, she hopes to attend the 2017 Canadian Swimming Championships in Montreal, which are booked for Aug. 4 to 7, 2017.

Unfortunately, De Pippo fell short of her goal of earning an opportunity to compete at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but that hasn’t dampened her spirits as she now sets her sights on the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

“I’m working towards Tokyo 2020 and things are looking pretty good,” De Pippo said.

When De Pippo was eight years old, she was nearly killed in a car accident, which claimed the life of her mother. The collision left De Pippo with brain injuries that doctors expected would leave her unable to walk or talk.

Instead, she has proven doubters and doctors wrong, competing at an elite level within the para-swimming world, while also co-authoring the telling of her story — ‘An Unexpected Miracle: Conquering Brain Injury’ — in 2014.

The Can-Am swim meets are designed to bring together para-swimmers from the Canada and United States for two stand-alone competitions per year, aimed at enhancing the development to the international level.

According to the International Paralympic Committee, athletes competing in Paralympic sports have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport. There are 10 eligible classifications that allow a person to compete as a para-athlete, including eight physical impairments, visual impairments and intellectual impairments.

De Pippo wished to extend gratitude to Frank Sandor of Sandor Rental Equipment and Jim Fiorentino of Fiorentino Brothers for their support.