When you’re injured at the tender age of 8.5 months, like Australian Paralympian Marayke Jonkers, “transitioning” to life with a spinal cord injury and developing a body — as well as a mind — that excels at adapted sports is a definite bonus. Jonkers, 28, whose sport is swimming, has been to three Paralympics — Sydney, Athens and Beijing — and is ranked second in the world in both the 50-meter breaststroke and the 150-meter individual medley.

When Jonkers’ mother was told Marayke would never be able to walk, introducing her daughter to swimming seemed like the next logical step. “She took me to mum/infant swim lessons and I never needed to wear floaties. By the time I was 2, I could swim across the pool by myself.” Jonkers, a T5 para, started competing at the age of 5 and has been steamrolling the world of adapted swimming ever since.

And while SCI-related health issues can wreak havoc in the lives of disabled athletes, Jonkers bounces back harder than a red bounc