Aquatic accomplishments
Special Olympians have fun swims

by Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 08/98) - Joey Oogaaq splashes around to finish four consecutive strokes without touching the pool's bottom. He is the spirit of the Yellowknife Special Olympics.

Only a year ago, co-coach Maureen Eden says Oogaaq had a "lazy foot," which kept him from being waterborne.

"He wanted to swim but didn't have confidence," she says. "Now he does."

The 28-year-old Yellowknifer is deaf, has difficulty speaking and lives with a learning disability.

But that does not stop him from attending the weekly Special Olympics swims every Sunday at Yellowknife's Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.

Usually about 12 disabled Yellowknifers suit up for the free swims between 3 and 4 p.m.

Eden has different methods of encouraging the swimmers. Some let her hold their arms as they get used to having their feet surrounded by water.

"Joey doesn't like to be touched," she says. "When he goes underwater in a dive, his form is like a fish."

With fluid, streamlined movements he follows her underwater tips.

The Special Olympics program includes other units in bowling, skating and cross-country skiing with many athletes taking part in a few of these.

The swimmers are not competitive as the focus is on fun. But according to coach Monica Black, one or two of the swimmers could make a trip to more competitive regional meets next year in Alberta.

Sitting on sometimes-dripping chairs in humid chlorine-scented air, many parents and children remain to watch the Olympians after finishing the preceding family swim.

Sally Morris, swim instructor for various age groups, says pool attendance has varied throughout the winter and during the past month.

"During the Arctic Winter Games it was really busy in here because all the athletes had passes," the 18-year-old says.

"Then came the Caribou Carnival and it wasn't as busy because there were so many other events."

The pool offers swim programs for Yellowknifers aged four months through to adult, with seniors and students getting discounts.

Top of pageDiscussion boardSearch