Cooma's Joshua Alford has joined the likes of some of Australia's great sporting legends including Ian Thorpe and Steve Waugh in receiving the NSW Combined High Schools State Blue Award.
Alford, 18, who graduated from Monaro High School last year, received the award for swimming AWD (athletes with disabilities).
The prestigious award is presented to representatives who have performed at an elite level and have demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship and leadership at a state level.
Alford was one of 65 recipients of a Combined High School NSW Blues Sports award at a gala dinner at ANZ Stadium in Sydney last November.
It capped off a wonderful year for Alford, who also won the South Coast Schools Blues Sports award for swimming and Most Outstanding Athlete with a disability in swimming in December, presented by current world number three in women's surfing Sally Fitzgibbons.
Alford was also honoured with his photo being used on the South Coast Schools Sports poster for the upcoming year.
It's been a busy few months for Alford who, on the back of his performances at the Australian School Championships in Adelaide, took on the gruelling 5 kilometre Open Water Swim (OWS) during November and December.
He attended the Berry Rickards OWS 5 kilometre event at Penrith Lakes in November and qualified for NSW State OWS in an impressive time for his first OSW event in a time of 1 hour 90 minutes.
This encouraged him to enter the NSW OWS event at Penrith Lakes held on December 14.
He finished in eighth place for the 17 to 18 years age group with an impressive Personal Best time of 1 hour 5 minutes and 9 seconds, narrowly missing the qualifying for Australian Open Water by just 9 seconds.
However, being only his second OWS 5 kilometre swim he was happy with his result and coach Neil Hindson was amazed at his finish as he overtook more fancied rivals in the last kilometre to move up and pass 12 swimmers in the race.
Alford's finish and kick at the end of the race was described as simply awesome by his coach.
Notwithstanding just missing the qualifying time, Alford has cruised to qualifying for the multiclass open event at the Australian OWS 5 kilometre race to be held on February 15 at Geelong, Victoria.
He will travel down with his family and he hopes to repeat his performance in the OWS event again at the Australian Championships.
The new year has also got off to a flying start for Alford who was invited to attend the Road to Rio Paralympic Squad at the AIS by Swimming Australia from January 5 to 11.
Alford was training with 30 other multiclass swimmers and was provided coaching by a team of 10 coaches from around Australia. Feedback from the camp was excellent and coaches stated that Alford was the stand out swimmer at the camp being then only swimmer performing PB's during the Time Trial sessions. The camp gave him more experience and exposure to high performance training. He underwent physio screening, dry land training, strengthening and conditioning, nutritional assessment and guidance along with his pool work during the week at the camp.
The camp has provided Alford with more insight into elite competition as he now commences his run down to training for the Australian Open Swimming Championships in April 1 to 6 at Brisbane.
Immediately after the Australian Open in Brisbane he will have a quick turnaround before competing again at Australian Age Championships in Sydney at the back end of April.