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SPECIAL OLYMPICS OPEN WATER SWIMMING
Special Olympics Swimming – A Long Standing Tradition
Swimming has always been an integral part of the Special Olympics experience. When
Eunice Kennedy Shriver began running camps for people with intellectual disabilities in
the backyard of her Maryland home, she was found, more often than not, in the pool.
Special Olympics was her passion and as an avid swimmer it was through swimming that
Mrs. Shriver loved to teach athletes to push themselves, learn new skills, build confidence
and experience the joy of sports.
Athletes with intellectual disabilities face profound challenges of inclusion, acceptance
and recognition on the playing field, at community pools and in life. Through Special
Olympics these athletes find opportunities to exceed expectations that help shatter long
held stigma and stereotypes about their capabilities. By their example and their actions,
the athletes themselves have overcome any uncertainty about their drive, competitive
nature, and ability to push themselves beyond what other think them capable.
Special Olympics Open Water Swimming Movement
In keeping with the spirit and mission of Special Olympics, the Aquatics Program has
been expanded to include Open Water Swimming. The Open Water Swim Program is not
only an opportunity for athletes to participate in a lifelong recreational activity but provides a
unique challenge of their physical and psychological abilities.
Special Olympics Unified Sports® is a program that combines approximately equal
numbers of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities
(partners) on sports teams for training and competition. The goal is to implement this
movement within the Open Water community.
Every Special Olympics athlete is entitled to quality training and competition experiences
that challenge them in the sport of their choice. Specific to Open Water Swimming,
Special Olympics’ goal is to have 100 Special Olympics open water athletes safely
competing in the 1500 meter race at the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles. To achieve
this goal, let's join together and:
PROMOTE - Build awareness of Special Olympics Open Water Swimming and the
Unified Sports® movement.
RAISE FUNDS - Raise funds to support Special Olympics Open Water Swimming
ATHLETE RECRUITMENT AND TRAINING – Expand the number of Special
Olympics athletes participating in Open Water Swims around the world and provide
training opportunities including Pool Open Water Swims (POWS) and Open Water Swims
COACHING EXCELLENCE – Build open water knowledge and skill base of aquatics
coaches and provide training through clinics, workshops and educational programs.
FACILITATE PARTICIPATION - Facilitate athlete participation in international open
water swimming events through partnership with existing OWS race directors to
incorporate Special Olympics athletes in their events.
The Growth of Special Olympics Open Water Swimming
Special Olympics Athlete, Sam Silver (California) proposes the idea of an open
water swim at the Special Olympics World Games.
Special Olympics Athlete, Andrew Smilley (Cayman Islands) receives the 2009
World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year Award. In his first ever cold-
water experience, Smilley placed 107th in a field of 800 swimmers in the RCP
Tiburon Mile. The Special Olympics athlete placed third in the 19-29 age in the non-
wetsuit division in the San Francisco Bay.
Athens, Greece. Open Water Swimming debuts as a Demonstration Event in the
Special Olympics World Games. Thirty-five athletes dash into the sea to the start of
the 1500 meter swim.
South Africa. For the 14th year in a row, Special Olympics Athlete, Craig Groenewald
(South Africa) wins his division of the Midmar Mile, the world’s largest open water
swimming event. Full Article here>>
Cayman Islands. 12 Special Olympics Athletes and Unified Partners participate in
the 10th Annual Butterfield Sea Swim. The race was the culmination of three days of
classroom, pool and open water swim training for the Special Olympics Athletes.
Full Article here>>
Miami, Florida. Special Olympics Athlete, Andy Miyares (Florida) swims alongside
Olympian Gary Hall in a one-mile, open water Nike Swim Miami race in Key
Biscayne. Andy finished third out of all swimmers in his age group in a time of 31:32.
Full Article here>>
Washington DC. Special Olympics athletes join WaveOne's weekly open water
swimming training program at National Harbor.
Washington, DC. Jenny Mitchell and Dave Lenox (Virginia), are the first Special
Olympics Unified Partners to complete the 1.3 mile Washington’s Crossing: Swim
Across the Potomac River.
San Juan, Puerto Rico. Special Olympics Inaugural World Aquatics Invitational.
40 swimmers, including 9 Unified Teams, participate in the 1500 meter Open Water
Bermuda. Special Olympics Athlete, Jenny Mitchell (Virginia) swims the 2k race in
the 22nd Annual Round the Sound.
Los Angeles, California. 100 International Special Olympics Athletes are fully
trained, race prepared and at the start line of the 1500 meter
Open Water Swim Race.
After Washington's Crossing, Jenny and Dave are the first Special
Olympics Unified Partners to swim across the Potomac River July, 2012
Jenny Mitchell (Virginia) swims the 2k race in the
22nd Annual Round the Sound in Bermuda.
Special Olympics swimmers and Unified Partners
after a Thursday night swim at National Harbor.
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