BENDIGO’s Special Olympics swim team has arrived in Melbourne for the summer Olympic games event, after one of the “biggest build-ups” the squad has ever seen.
An official farewell from Kaliana school yesterday followed the hand-over of the team’s new uniforms on Thursday.
Head coach Michele Bearryman-Cooper said the level of community support to help the athletes get to the games had been unbelievable.
“It’s just been wonderful,” she said.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support. This is the biggest games for the team and the biggest build up I’ve ever experienced.”
The group of intellectually disabled athletes, the Bendigo Barracudas, have been given financial backing for new bathers and equipment, after a range of local businesses threw their support behind the team in recent weeks.
This weekend’s state titles are set to be one of the most important meets in the 25 years Bendigo has fielded a team, with athletes getting the chance to join the national team in the Asia Pacific Games and World Games.
Ms Bearryman-Cooper said the key difference to the athletes’ attitudes this year was a greater sense of team pride.
“They’ve been working so hard, they’ve all been in training every night this week,” she said.
A lot of them have said they know they’ve got the Bendigo Barracudas’ reputation to live up to,” she said.
At their recent meet in Echuca, Bendigo Barracudas took out six first places and 19 podium finishes.
The opening ceremony of the games, held at Carey Grammar in Melbourne, gets underway at 9am today. – JOSH FAGAN