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Maria Smith

Being a swimming coach to Special Olympics athletes goes well beyond the physical boundaries of the pool for Maria Smith, who has been the Special Olympics Wellington Head Coach of Swimming for more than 16 years.

“This year, as the Aquatics Head Coach for the Special Olympics World Summer Games, I will concentrate on ways to support and help local clubs and coaches to prepare their athletes for competition in Los Angeles.

“This shouldn’t only happen in the pool, but should also prepare them as confident, independent individuals and a respected member of the New Zealand team.”

Maria has applied this approach across many events over the years, including the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens when she was the Assistant Swim Coach.

“It was in Athens that I also experienced one of the highlights of my life. It was incredible being the country and sport to be awarded the first Gold medal of the Games by way of Sam Donaldson.”

Maria adds that while there have been individual successes such as Sam’s achievements which make events so exciting, she finds it is strong team bonds that Special Olympics athletes have which present a constant reward to her.

“Being part of a team that focuses on our athletes’ abilities – not their disabilities – brings wonderful rewards, including satisfaction of participation, the recognition of potential and achievements and the friendships and networks created.”

Maria believes being part of the Games is important to New Zealand as “the dedicated coaches, athletes, management and supporters make our country capable of competing on the world sports stage”.

While many may find it challenging to fit in coaching, attending global events and managing other commitments in life, for Maria it is simple: “I see Special Olympics as part of my life and making time for it has become second nature. The progress all athletes and families have made is always extremely rewarding and motivating.”
What I love about New Zealand Special Olympics:

It is inspiring and strongly motivating.


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