Special Olympics

It is a Wednesday evening. Rochelle, Jacob and Amber and other athletes with intellectual disabilities head to the Selwyn Aquatic Centre in Rolleston for their weekly swim lesson.

You can see the excitement and anticipation on the athletes’ faces as they plunge into the water with swim coach Sue who begins the class.

Special Olympics Canterbury reserves two lanes for the athletes with money from the Selwyn Community Fund.

Swimming instructor Jessica Waters explains, advance swimmers are in the furtherest lane, the middle lane is for those learning to swim fast and in the side lane recreational swimmers are taking their time.

In the furtherest lane Amber is showing off her improved breathing technique and freestyle, while Rochelle is training in the middle lane for another gold medal at the next Special Olympics’ competition.

Jacob who is in the side lane enjoys swimming with his head above the water.

For these athletes, ages 18 to 50, being a part of Special Olympics gives them something to look forward to.

Jeff Waters, Rochelle’s father and chairperson of Special Olympics Canterbury dedicates up to 20 hours of his free time each month to Special Olympics and says the true value of giving up his time is seeing athletes developing in their sport and socially as well.

While Jacob currently swims with his head above the water, Mr Waters says it would be rewarding to one day see him put his head under, just a small step for us but a giant step for Jacob.

Any money the Special Olympics Group receives goes a long way, but Mr Waters says there is more to it than money.

“For us the money is great because it takes some pressure off the athletes and volunteers to raise funds, because the majority of our athletes aren’t able to fundraise for themselves and struggle to pay for anything other than the basics.”

The fundraising for training sessions and national competitions is left up to a limited group of volunteers .

Mr Waters says the fact the Council gave them the fund shows they value Special Olympics’ athletes and volunteers living in Selwyn.

“It just shows that someone else cares. It’s good to feel that you’re not on your own sometimes.”