Fortified with an indomitable spirit and unwavering faith, Shanntol Ince has been able to make tremendous sacrifices and overcome daunting odds to stamp her mark as a swimmer of international repute.

After years of following a rigorous schedule and missing out four years ago, Ince now has a second chance to splash her way to the top of her sport as she rounds off her preparations for the Rio Paralympic Games, scheduled for September 7-18.

Ince will be in action on the first day of the swimming programme, September 8, when the heats of her favourite events, the 100-metre and 400-metre freestyle, are scheduled to start.

Her journey to Rio, though, has been long and difficult.

“Swimming has been the only sport I really wanted to do. In fact, I started at the age of four. It hasn’t been easy. I have had to make many sacrifices along the way but the effort has paid off. None of this could have happened without God. I put God first in everything I do. My determination to be the best that I can be comes from the support I receive from my parents and siblings, my coaches over the years, my friends, and the corporate partners who have held my hand along the way. They are all my extended family,”

Ince said, during a break in training at the Flying Fish Club pool in Long Circular, St James, on Saturday.

Ince’s “extended family” has become larger this year with the addition of RBC Royal Bank T&T. In fact, RBC’s embrace of the swimmer is part of a wider global RBC Olympian programme in which Shanntol is the first T&T participant.

As part of this initiative she functions as a community ambassador and is employed in the marketing department of the bank, having started duties in May.

Under the global RBC Olympians Programme, which was established in 2002, current and retired Olympic and Paralympic athletes are recruited and hired to represent RBC as community ambassadors to spread the Olympic message of excellence, teamwork, leadership and commitment to country and communities.

It is expected that the chosen athletes would acquire skills and experiences that will help them with their career transitions for life after sport.

Since its inception in Canada, more than 200 current and retired Olympic and Paralympic athletes have participated in the programme.

Managing Director, Darryl White says Ince is actually an addition to the RBC family. “You are our family just by being here. We are delighted that you have accepted us as part of your family, as well. You inspire the whole of T&T because you have crossed personal hurdles in life and you represent the country with passion and pride. You are the perfect example of what years of hard work and sacrifice can achieve,” White told Ince, as he presented her with a company token at RBC’s corporate offices, St Clair, Port of Spain, recently.

“Despite everything, I think I am really blessed. It has been tough but faith in God has kept me grounded. God always opens a path for you. I am grateful for all the support I have received from corporate sponsors throughout my journey. Being a member of the RBC family now has given me that extra push,” said an emotional Ince.

As White explained, the RBC Olympians Programme is aligned strongly with the bank’s values of diversity and inclusion. “The spirit of the Olympiad, of fairness, character discipline and excellence are the same elements that go into the building of communities and countries. RBC prides itself with having over-riding purpose – helping clients thrive and communities proper. It’s at the heart of all that we do, both in our banking halls and in the communities we serve. Shanntol fits snugly within this fold. We at RBC join the rest of T&T in wishing her the best as she goes for gold in Rio,” White said.

As to her prospects in Rio, Ince said that she would use her experience at the 2012 London Paralympics, when she was just 17, as the foundation to mount the medal rostrum.

“London was an overwhelming experience. Having been there before is certainly an advantage. There is still a little fine-tuning to do. Just flying the flag of T&T at this level fills me with pride and I am going to give it my all,” said Ince.