For 15-year-old Sümeyye Boyaci, swimming is everything.
The Turkish teenager was born with no arms and a dislocated hip bone but that hasn’t stopped her from achieving her sporting dreams.
“Water is a great therapy for me. In the water, I feel freer than anywhere else. My actions are limitless; things I can do are limitless; I'm limitless,” she told Euronews.
Boyaci took gold at this year’s World Para Swimming European Championships in Ireland, winning the 50-metre backstroke with a race time of 45.21 seconds.
“It was very exciting. I had very strong contenders. I knew I would win because I worked so hard,” she recalled.
“The feeling I have when I stand at the edge of the pool sweeps me off my feet. You completely forget about everything. Once you are in the water, a different feeling replaces excitement. You only think about reaching the finish line,” she said.
But no victory comes without hard work.
Boyaci said she trained for six hours a day for 40 days in preparation for the race. Each day of training would see her cover a distance of eight kilometres.
And her dreams didn’t end with the European Championships — Boyaci is currently preparing for the 2019 Malaysia World Championship and ultimately hopes to take on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“It's difficult to explain the feeling you have when you win. You have to experience it,” she said.