The athletes who take part in Special Olympics Bay of Islands' aquatics programme are a dedicated team. It is not unusual for the athletes to travel for more than 40 minutes to get to training, and they do this on a weekly basis. For the past five years the swim squad has been steadily growing in number from a few training at the Kerikeri College pool back in 2009 to more than 20 athletes from all around Northland including Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Paihia and Whangarei.
"Endless travel is a necessity and a 'give it a go' attitude has become part of our team's philosophy. We have two groups training—one in Kawakawa, and one in Kaitaia. Our athletes love swimming. They all have different skill levels and abilities from very timid athletes who are just learning to walk across the pool to athletes who happily swim 25 metres or 50 metre races to athletes, like Alex Goldsack and Joshua Walker, who also train and compete in mainstream swimming," says Barbara Linton, Coach of the Special Olympics Bay of Islands swim squad.
Barbara has been involved with Special Olympics "on the fringes" for years through her work as an international swim official and coach in Auckland, prior to moving to Northland.
In 2009, four athletes from Far North travelled to the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games in Palmerston North to take part in the Aquatics competition. Barbara became coach in 2010, and the team has grown in number (and geography) since. In 2013, more than three quarters of the Bay of Islands team comprised swimmers (13 swimmers in total). They ranged in age from 11 years' old to 44 years' old.
"We have amazing support from the Bay of Islands Amateur Swim Club in Kawakawa, Swimming Northland, Kaitaia College, and a local Open Water coach. Our team is making the most of a variety of opportunities. The Bay of Islands Amateur Swim Club provides kickboards and training gear and includes our swimmers in their race nights and club champs. Two of our athletes train once a week in their squad. Swimming Northland has also been very welcoming and has adjusted events at a meet to include extra races for our swimmers. We're all having a lot of fun," says Barbara.
Contact Special Olympics Bay of Islands