ZACHARY FLINT has one main aim when he hits the pool for training sessions three times a week.
He wants to represent Australia and swim overseas.
As team captain of the Bendigo Barracudas Special Olympics team, Zachary said he was confident the group could claim a haul of medals at the Summer Olympics Games in Melbourne in March.
“We’ve got a good team and I think we’re the fastest,” the 21-year-old said.
“I love it. I want to swim overseas hopefully. It would be very fun going to new pools and meeting new swimmers.”
From the Summer Olympics event, participants can qualify for the national Games next year, before the 2015 world Games in America.
A number of the Bendigo swimmers, including Tara Smith who has down syndrome, have already represented Australia in swimming.
Tanikea, 12, has just joined the team in the past two months but said she loved going to different events. “I’ve made heaps of friends and met people from other regions,” she said.
Kim Tupper – who is a carer for Tanieka and Paige, another member of the Barracudas team – said the girls had gained a lot from the swimming.
“They learn to be a team,” she said. “When they go away together it gives them that independence. They learn to get along and cheer for each other and support each other. Sometimes they feel like they’re being put down by others but when they’re doing this they feel like athletes.”
For Bendigo Barracudas chair, Pam Ferrari, the key role of the team was to get more people involved and to help people feeling included.
“The swimming is a way they can achieve something,” she said. “It’s a way of them being part of the community.”
Ms Ferrari said Bendigo had a swimming and tenpin bowling team in the Special Olympics but were hoping to make more sports available for local athletes.