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Special Olympics swimmers break record for Lake Taupō crossing

Tate and Joshua swam 33km to fundraise for the National Summer Games

Special Olympics swimmers break record for Lake Taupō crossing

Two Special Olympics swimmers from Auckland have completed a 33km swim across Lake Taupō to raise funds for their club mates to attend the National Summer Games in Hamilton December.

In the process, Tate Pichon, 25, broke the record for the west-east crossing, climbing out of the water after 10 hours and 26 minutes, followed 23min later by 22-year-old Joshua Vegar.

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Despite never swimming more than 20km before the race, the two were in good spirits during and after the crossing.

“Next year you can do this and I’ll be on the boat,” Tate told his support crew as he climbed out of the water on the eastern shore of Lake Taupō.

“How do I feel? Good. Don’t ask me again,” grinned the athlete who has been swimming for North Harbour Special Olympics for around six years, while Joshua has been part of the Waitakere Special Olympics club for more than a decade.

Tate’s father Ray says the idea for the fundraiser was born last year when the Freemasons New Zealand Special Olympics National Summer Games had to be postponed by a year due to the Covid pandemic.

“So they have been building up to this for some time,” says Ray Pichon.

Tate Pichon, coach Susan Sherwen and Joshua Vegar before the crossing.

Even though their physical and mental strength were severely tested, both athletes still had energy for some terrific banter, splashing the support crews, who in return retaliated with water pistols.

Ray Pichon says that the two friends had done several long-distance swims before, but the Taupō crossing was a whole new challenge.

“They have done quite a few 5km and 10km swims before and have done one 20km swim, but this will be next level,” says Pichon, who estimates that the duo have done more than 400km in the water this year to prepare for their crossing.

Tate and Josh have become familiar faces in the Ocean Swim Series, the Takapuna Beach series and O Swim events where they have already conquered Akaroa Harbour, Wellington Harbour, Under the Harbour Bridge and Bean Rock Lighthouse events.

The pair made lots of new friends, including many of the high-profile swimmers who offered their support.

The Special Olympics athletes have been training with ultra-swimmers Claire Hobson and Susan Sherwen, who recently made headlines when she crossed the Foveaux Strait.

“The support has been absolutely amazing,” says Ray Pichon.

Tate and Joshua hope their fundraiser will raise enough funds to help pay for the North Harbour and Waitakere clubs to attend the National Summer Games in Hamilton, from December 8.

Over 1200 athletes will compete in 10 sports across eight venues around Hamilton, which will be the biggest sporting event in New Zealand in 2022.


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