Credo: Liz Johnson

Paralympic swimmer, 22
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The Independent Online

I believe...

Some people aren't bothered if they win or lose, but it's important to me to be able to compete [Johnson has cerebral palsy]. This streak comes out in all parts of my life: playing computer games, arguing with my boyfriend until I've won or running to get to the phone first.

A good athlete is someone who has talent, commitment and attention to detail and is articulate most of the time. An excellent athlete is someone who is all these things all the time.

If it wasn't for my mum, I probably wouldn't be swimming. She taught me to believe that I was no different to anybody else and that I shouldn't feel inadequate or threatened by anybody.

Worrying before a race isn't going to help.

I do the 100m breaststroke so it's only going to be one minute and 39 seconds. I like to be at the pool early, to make sure everything is right for me.

Some Paralympics athletes feel more at ease when they're together, because that's when they're not so conscious of their disabilities. When we're away with the team it's the one place we can relax and be ourselves without inhibitions.

You go into autopilot as soon as the whistle goes and you line up behind your block.

I dab both my eyes with my bad arm for luck before every race – and to make sure that my goggles are on properly.

My career highlight was at the World Championships in 2006, where I won three gold medals and broke the world record for the 100m breaststroke – and all the day before my 21st birthday.

I'm able to prioritise between practice and education. It helps to keep me balanced.

I've always wanted to be an accountant and I'm hoping to do my training after the Beijing Paralympics.

The Summer Paralympic Games will be held in Beijing from 6 September. Liz Johnson supports EDF Energy's 2012 Carbon Challenge(www.savetodaysavetomorrow.com)

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