Swimming for a cause

PUHI — The excitement and anticipation among the handful of swimmers, their escorts, family, friends and coaches was on the level of a high competition Monday at the YMCA pool.

But it was a holiday and besides the swimming contingent from the Kaua‘i Special Olympics, a handful of people enjoyed the water, unaware of the music blaring and the high spirits of the swimmers.

“Where is Makani Kapua?” Tommy and Tina Cox asked. “We came to support Makani because I got to know him when he was at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School where I was the vice principal. Since then, we’ve followed him and he asked if we could come and support him.”

About 18 swimmers in the Kaua‘i Special Olympics swimming program collected pledges in exchange for swimming laps in the annual Swim-a-thon which precedes the state swimming competition.

The Swim-a-thon takes place at home while the athletes travel off-island for the annual state meet, but irregardless of the outcome, the spirit and enthusiasm rivals those of high competition meets.

Accompanied by escorts in the water, the athletes take off amidst the blaring of music from a deejay. The excitement is punctuated by the drawing of prizes for the swimmers. The prizes are contributed by community donors and welcomed whole-heartedly by the athletes.

People with disabilities who pursue aquatics through Special Olympics become successful swimmers and competitors, states the Disabled World website.

Athletes are taught aquatic techniques which develop their coordination, physical fitness and sense of accomplishment, the Special Olympics program stressing the well-being of the athlete and fairness in competition while being instructed on the progression through four competitive strokes and the medley event.

During the Swim-a-thon, the Kaua‘i Special Olympics swimmers posted more than $1,300 raised by swimming laps and another $1,000 in outright support, the swimmers swimming individually, or in Unified group.

Athletes compete in swimming during the Summer Games season which runs February through May for Special Olympics Hawai‘i, states its website.

Because of the wide array of events offered, swimming is appropriate for a range of ages and ability levels, the website states.

Swimming competition events range in distance from 25 to 200 yards and are offered in all four strokes, including freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly as well as medley events and relays.

Billy Brown, the YMCA aquatics director as well as head coach for Swim Kaua‘i Aquatics, absorbed the excitement, manning a special lift to bring a wheel-chaired swimmer into the water and watching as the swimmer took off with the same excitement as the rest of the field.

Visit www.specialolympicshawaii.org for more information.


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