Three Special Olympic swimmers are off to Vancouver this July to represent Red Deer in the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games.
Mikel McIver, Hidde Geurts and Elliot Moskowy have all qualified for the Games, which will be held at the University of British Columbia.
The Games begin on July 8th, where over 2,000 athletes, coaches and officials will partake in the events. Coach Hayley Goring has been with the boys for the last four years on their journey to Vancouver.
“These guys have been working hard for a long time and quite a few seasons,” said Goring. “Because it’s a four-year cycle, that means they’ve had to be training the entire time and trying very hard to qualify.”
Goring explained the trio travels extensively throughout Alberta all year round going to various meets.
“They have gone above and beyond what most athletes do to get where they are,” said Goring. “Their times improve every meet they go to, which is awesome to watch.”
Guerts has been swimming since his parents put him into the earliest lessons with the City of Red Deer.
“It wasn’t until his Grade 10 gym class when he was 16 at Notre Dame that his lifeguard said to his teacher he had great potential and suggested he try Special Olympics swimming,” explains Guerts’ mother, Anneke Willers.
Guerts will be swimming the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 50m backstroke, 100m backstroke, 100m IM and the 50m butterfly.
Guerts explain the group couldn’t be more excited for the event and stated that he “Feels good about it” and is “Very pumped to be able to do it.”
“With how hard we’ve been working, it is great to see results in the fact that we qualified for Vancouver, it is just tremendous,” said Guerts.
Moskowy, who has been a part of Red Deer’s Catalina Swim Club since Grade 5, is a national gold medal swimmer.
He will be swimming the 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 50m backstroke, 100m backstroke, 100m IM and 200m IM during the events this summer.
“It feels most extravagant and most exciting to be able to compete at this level,” said Moskowy. “It is the moment that I’ve been waiting for a long time and mostly pure determination and relentlessness went into getting to this point.”
Moskowy’s mother, Laurie Moskowy is thrilled her son has made it this far and believes Vancouver will “Be a great personal growth opportunity as well as be a lot of fun.”
“The great thing about the boys is that they have a bit of friendly competition together that I think pushes them to be better,” she said. “It helps to have someone in the club to compare yourself to because it pushes you to be better.”
Last year Guerts and Elliot travelled to Sherbrooke, Quebec to attend the National Special Olympics competition where they were chosen as the two male swimmers who would represent Alberta.
Elliot came home with two gold and three silver medals. Guerts ended up fifth overall, finishing just hundredths of seconds away from a medal in multiple events.
Guerts’ mother explained, “Every day they are doing something to better their times in the pool. Hidde and Elliot go to Ignite Fitness twice a week for dry land training where they do CrossFit.”
McIver has been swimming for nearly 18 years competitively since he was 12, making this his second trip to the Special Olympics Summer Games.
His last trip to Brandon, Manitoba for the national event eight years ago landed him a number of gold and bronze medals.
This year McIver will be swimming the 25m freestyle, 50m freestyle, 25m backstroke, 50m backstroke, 25m breaststroke, and 25m butterfly.
“I’m very pumped for the competition and am just trying to stay focused,” said McIver, who spends his spare time working for the Red Deer Rebels as well as Eastview Sobey’s when he’s not swimming.
McIver has assisted in pregame prep for the Rebels for the last 14 years where he has had the opportunity to do dry land training with them such as riding the bikes, doing push ups, sit ups, and pull ups, as well as running stairs to prepare for his upcoming event.
McIver’s parents Rob and Deb McIver love the community surrounding the Red Deer Special Olympics team.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling of excitement at these national competitions but they are always a really great time,” said Rob.
Deb added, “There’s a huge social aspect to the event – they have a huge opening ceremony with all of the athletes, they all eat meals together and do everything together as a group, and at the end of the event there’s a large dance with all of the athletes.”
These three Red Deerians agreed the thing they love most about swimming is the ability to be able to see themselves getting better when they look at their times.
“I love being able to use the different techniques and methods in swimming and be able to work on my endurance,” said Elliot. “It is incredible to watch yourself improve in your different strokes and it feels like a great accomplishment in the end.”