Now, swimming flows through almost all aspects of Chloe's life. She trains daily with dreams of competing for Australia. She also teaches learn-to-swim at the Hawkesbury Oasis, where she first fell in love with the pool. 2021 has been a year of epic wins for Chloe, and she's just getting started.
As a kid, Chloe Osborn was big on sports and particularly obsessed with soccer. But when she was just 12 years old, she received shattering news that ground all familiar aspects of her young life to a halt. Chloe was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer occurring in bones or the soft tissue around them. For Chloe, the cancer was in her spine. Vital surgery to remove Chloe’s tumour resulted in some nerve damage and a spinal injury. At the time, her physio recommended swimming to maintain her strength, keep her muscles moving and help manage her pain.
“Because of my spinal injury I wasn’t allowed to play contact sports or anything where there was impact, so no running or anything like that,” Chloe said.
“Swimming was pretty much the last sport that I was actually allowed to do, and I was always really big on sports, so it was really important that I kept doing something active.
“I guess as it was my only option, I channelled everything into it and I wanted to do the best that I could.”
Chloe first began hitting the pool once or twice each week at the Hawkesbury Oasis. As her illness and treatment meant she missed out on the first two formative years of High School, she joined the Y NSW squad for the opportunity to connect and make friends her own age.
In the squad she started swimming four times a week and her competitive potential rose rapidly to the surface.
Since Chloe’s coach at Oasis first encouraged her to get involved in the wide world of Multi Class swimming, the sport has become central to her life.
The Multi Class system groups swimmers with disabilities into different classifications to provide a fair racing opportunity. Athletes are classified into 1 of the 15 classifications based on their ability, racing against their world records rather than whoever else is in the pool. The swimmer closest to their classification’s world record wins.
Chloe entered her first competition, a local carnival, when she was 15.
“I was so excited about it beforehand, but when it got to it, I was absolutely freaking out. I was putting on one of those really tight race suits. It was the first time I'd tried to put it on, and I tore a hole in it. That wasn’t the greatest thing to happen at my first race,” she laughed.
Despite the wardrobe malfunction, Chloe made a personal best and was hooked on the thrill of racing and the atmosphere of comps.
“I love it because when you go to a carnival you get to meet so many amazing people and make so many friends,” she said.
“Everyone you meet in the Multi Class system is so friendly and incredible. They've all got their own amazing stories.”
Chloe currently races as an S7, training five to six times per week and competing regularly. This year she qualified for the 50 and 100 freestyle events at the Australian Paralympic swimming trials in Adelaide, where she achieved a personal best in the 100 and a season best in the 50. While she missed the finals this time, she placed third within her S7 category and is now ranked 13th in the country in the 50 freestyle and 26th in the 100 freestyle. Since coming back home, Chloe is training harder than ever before.
“I have friends who made the Paralympic team, and it’s incredible to be able to say I swim with them. I'd never realised how close I actually was to that elite level,” she said.
“After being on pool deck and being surrounded by the atmosphere and the swimmers… It’s given me a bit of a fire, and I want to train and work harder than ever before.
“Since I don't have another area where I get to compete, swimming is really important because I get to have goals and have something to work for.”
Chloe’s sights are now set on Commonwealth Games trials next year, where she is hoping to make a final. Between now and then the teenager will celebrate her 18th birthday in October, and five years clear of cancer – officially signalling her remission – in November.
Chloe now trains in Ryde with a high-performance coach, but the Hawkesbury Oasis - where she first fell in love with swimming and started training - remains a huge part of her life.
She recently completed her ‘Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety Course’ through the Y NSW and began teaching school aged children to swim.
“It’s so awesome encouraging kids to swim,” she said.
“As you grow up you tend to stop doing sports. You get more into school and all that sort of thing, so I love being able to try to help kids to first learn how to swim, and then encourage them to start competing and getting into swimming and loving it as much as I do.”
From a rehabilitation exercise to a way of life, Chloe has no plans to exit the water any time soon.
“I want to progress to a coaching level so I can help kids that are competing as well, that’s a bit of a goal of mine.”
Find out more about aquatics at Hawkesbury Oasis